Labour migration has been increasingly recognized as playing a significant role in the development of the Southern Africa region. In this regard, it has been widely noted that there is the need for governments to harmonize policies and standards through bilateral and regional agreements. It is in this context that Article 5 of the 1992 Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Treaty refers to the need to "develop policies aimed at the progressive elimination of obstacles to the free movement of capital and labour, goods, and services, and of the people of the region generally, among Member States," within the broader context of regional integration and labour mobility. Based on this treaty, a SADC Regional Action Plan on Labour Migration (2013-2015) was developed at the Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA) in 2012 and formally approved by SADC Ministers of Labour and Home Affairs in 2013. The action plan prioritizes data collection and management systems, social benefits and health services, remittances, policies and legislation governing labour migration, and protection of the rights of migrant workers. A Regional Labour Migration Policy Framework has been developed to address these identified priority areas with IOM support.

Due to the high levels of youth migration, South-South migration, and migration linked to new economic spheres, particularly the growth of extractive industries, there is a strong need for a wide-range of national, cross-border and regional labour migration programmes to ensure the protection and basic rights of labour migrants, as well as to harness the benefits of migration for sending and receiving countries, and the migrants themselves. These programmes include ongoing temporary labour migration initiatives involving Mauritius and Canada as well as the provision of assistance to over 200,000 Zimbabwean labour migrants at IOM reception centres in addition to more proactive engagement with the African diaspora to promote national and regional economic integration and development.

IOM will work to ensure that migrant workers are better protected through the development and implementation of labour migration and diaspora policies and/or strategies at the national and regional level. IOM will also work collaboratively with SADC and IOC Member States to establish and implement inter-state and inter-regional frameworks governing South-South labour mobility in order to better facilitate labour mobility. IOM will partner with governments and civil society, including migrant associations, to look for innovative ways to harness the resources of transnational communities, diaspora associations, and diaspora members more effectively for the socio-economic co-development of their countries of origin and residence.


In the Southern African region, IOM has been implementing a number of targeted initiatives designed to enhance SADC member states capacity to manage labour migration for the benefit of migrant workers and their families as well as countries of origin and destination.

One flagship labour migration project in the region involving Mauritius has successfully developed an operational framework to facilitate the migration of more than 600 Mauritian migrant workers for employment in Canada. IOM Mauritius, in collaboration with the Government of Mauritius and private recruitment agencies based in Canada, have been responsible for carrying out activities in the following areas: outreach, registration and short-listing; pre-selection and final selection of applicants; health and psychological assessment of short-listed applicants; employment contracts, visas and travel arrangements; pre-departure orientation; and post-arrival assistance and monitoring.

Through the EU-funded project, “Voices from the Underground: Building the Advocacy and Human Rights Capacity of Migrant Mineworkers and their Families in Southern Africa (2014 – 2016), IOM Mozambique is working to improve the protection and advocacy capacity of migrant mine workers and their families in Southern Africa. The project has three components: institutional capacity-building of the Mozambican Mine Workers Association (AMIMO);  strengthening legal services for mine workers and families in South Africa and Mozambique in close partnership with Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR); and devising advocacy strategies to increase national and regional protection of migrant mine workers and their families.

In order to work toward progressively meeting this strategic objective, the IOM Development Fund (IDF) will bring together Ministries of Labour from DRC, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in order to strengthen their capacity to implement labour migration programmes within the framework of the SADC Labour Migration Action Plan, SADC Regional Labour Migration Policy Framework, and Article 19 of the SADC Employment and Labour Protocol on the Protection of Migrant Workers.

There are three main outcomes that will lead to achieving the overall objective of the project as follows: Ministries of Labour have developed labour migration programmes customised to each of the above-mentioned countries’ national context; governments are implementing the recommendations from the assessment reports and the labour migration roadmaps; and a regional action plan on labour migration is utilised by SADC Member States to enhance labour migration practices in the region.

It is envisaged that these three outcomes will serve to address some of the main labour migration issues confronting SADC Member States in the Southern Africa region. Such issues pertain to lack of effective data collection, analysis, reporting and exchange systems, lack of inter-institutional coordination mechanisms and inter-state/cross border cooperation, and weak capacity to develop and implement labour migration programmes tailored to each country’s specific national context. Through this regional project, the selected SADC Member States will have increased capacity to manage labour migration more effectively through implementation of relevant regional frameworks governed by the SADC Secretariat.

It is against this backdrop that this regional project will work in collaboration with and support Ministries of Labour in selected SADC Member States to strengthen the generation of strategic information, regional coordination and dialogue, and capacity-building on labour migration, through targeted labour migration assessments, stakeholder meetings, and training workshops. All of these initiatives are intended to lead to the formulation of labour migration roadmaps and a regional model for South-South labour mobility.

Ultimately, these initiatives serve to bring together SADC Member States in order to facilitate South-South labour mobility arrangements with a view toward ensuring the protection of the fundamental human, labour, and social rights of migrant workers, their families and associated communities of origin and destination.  Such is IOM’s primary goal: Migration for the Benefit of All!