The SADC Member States convened a First Consultative Meeting of Experts on free movement of persons in the SADC Region and in Africa at the Grand Palm Hotel, Gaborone, Republic of Botswana, from 28-29 March 2017.
The meeting comes at an opportune time to reflect on how SADC can enhance facilitation of movement of persons in the region, pursuant to the SADC Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, and also to support implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063, in relation to free movement of persons in Africa and the African Passport.
The Experts had an opportunity to reflect on SADC achievements and challenges regarding the status of signature, ratification, accession and implementation of the SADC Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, which amongst others makes provision for the relaxation of Visa Regimes. The meeting also discussed the development of the African Union Draft Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment. This seeks to further the Aspirations of the African Union Agenda 2063 .
Agenda 2063, among others, advocates for political unity of which will be the culmination of the integration process. The integration process includes the free movement of persons and the establishment of continental institutions leading to full economic integration by 2030. It is expected that there shall be consensus on the form of the continental government and institutions, and Africa will be a continent where there is free movement of people, capital, goods and services. This will result in significant increases in trade and investments amongst African countries, rising to unprecedented levels and strengthening of Africa’s place in global trade.
At the conclusion, the Experts acknowledged that movement of persons in the region is critical for regional and continental integration and that for SADC to effectively fully implement free movement of persons in and the African Passport, SADC Member States that have not signed, ratified and acceded to the SADC Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and those that have not relaxed Visa Regimes for SADC Citizens should finalise this process. The Experts also recommended that implementation of free movement of persons in Africa, and implementation of the African Passport should be undertaken through a Phased Approach, recognising the complexity, prevailing challenges and the need to harmonise relevant policies.