Free Movement of Persons to stimulate African regional integration
The implementation mechanism of a Draft Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons in Africa aimed at promoting regional integration across the continent was the focus of discussions during an Experts’ meeting which opened on Monday at the Hilton Hotel in Flic en Flac.
The three-day event is organised by the African Union Commission (AUC) with the objective to develop a roadmap and establish a task force to guide the Commission on implementation strategies. Representatives from 55 African countries are participating.
In his opening address, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, Mr Seetanah Lutchmeenaraidoo, highlighted some of the major challenges that need to be overcome. It is much easier for a European citizen to go to Africa than for a citizen from an African country wishing to visit another country on the same continent, he said. However certain progress has been noted in different parts of the African continent such as in East and West Africa, he added.
Mr Lutchmeenaraidoo recalled that a liberal visa regime exists in Mauritius with visa at arrival on Mauritian territory provided to 67 nationalities. In the same vein, he said that Mauritius is accentuating its integration within continental Africa, and is in the process of joining the COMESA, SADC and East African Community Tripartite Free Trade Area, which represents a massive market of 650 million consumers.
According to the Minister it is necessary to ensure the ease of movement of persons in parallel with the liberalisation process of trade in goods and trade in services. It is thus primordial to ensure the movement of operators and professionals from different countries smoothly so as to promote intracontinental economic exchanges, he pointed out. He expressed his confidence that the African Union’s objective to come up with a single African passport will be achieved, given the numerous initiatives undertaken in the move to liberalise the circulation of people.
In her speech, the President of the Committee on the Free Movement of Persons Ambassador Catherine Jackden, outlined that this process encourages innovation and knowledge-transfer across the continent and helps societies to get acquainted with each other and to become more accepting.