JOINT PRESS RELEASE | Fresh Thrust Towards Free Movement in the COMESA Region as Immigration, Labour Ministers Meet
Ministers responsible for immigration and labour matters in COMESA have renewed their countries commitment to the implementation of the regional protocols on free movement as critical step towards unlocking the benefits associated with having free movement of factors of production in the region.
In their meeting conducted on 18 August 2023, Livingstone, Zambia the ministers welcomed the revised strategy for the implementation of COMESA Protocol on the Gradual Relaxation and Eventual Elimination of Visa, and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Labour, Services, Right of Establishment and Residence.
The two protocols have been in existence for a long time but have not yet attained the required ratifications by Member States to enable full implementation. Hence the Ministers adopted the immigration and labour experts’ recommendations to have a strong component on capacity building for migration stakeholders in the implementation of the Protocols as well as the past Decisions of the COMESA Council of Ministers relating to migration.
The ministerial meeting was preceded by the joint meeting of heads of immigration and labour and the COMESA Migration Dialogue (MIDCOM) hosted jointly with the International Organization for Migration with the support of the European Union.
Addressing the ministers, COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe said there cannot be meaningful integration of the region and the attainment of the aims and objectives of COMESA without the facilitation of seamless movement of goods, services and investment across the region.
“Trade is on-going in goods, provision of services, investment, tangibles and intangibles. However, for the goods, services and investment to move across borders, there is need for a human interface between them to facilitate an effective delivery of those goods and services,” the Secretary General said.
Currently, intra-COMESA trade potential is valued of over US$100 billion which could be unlocked through enhanced movement of goods and services across the region.
Making a case for enhanced cross border trade, the Regional Director of the International Organization for Migration, Mr. Ashraf el Nour called for facilitation of the safe, orderly and regular movement of small-scale cross border traders who constitute the largest segment of regional trade. Particularly, he called for ending the informality associated with cross-border trading.
“We don’t call for 100% regularisation because that may bring the risk of losing the flexibility that is needed for such trade to grow, to blossom and to expand. So, we need to strike the right balance between ending the informality and bringing some interdisciplinary support to such movement,” said Mr Nour.
The Chief Guest at the ministerial meeting Hon. Cornelius Mweetwa, Provincial Minister for Southern Province, Zambia called for more public awareness about the regional initiatives on migration including the protocols on free movement.
“As we implement programmes to facilitate the movement of persons across our borders for development, let make sure that we also carry our people with us on board,” Hon Mweetwa said. “That is the only way we shall be able to address negative perceptions of migration.”
At the meeting the First Report on Labour Migration Statistics in the COMESA region and the COMESA Regional Migration Database were launched. The report covers data for the decade 2010 to 2019 and contains the results on both the regional (COMESA) and the national levels.
Watch the video coverage here.