Advocacy for the Ratification of the AU Protocol on Free Movement of Persons

The Protocol to the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community, concerning the free movement of persons, the right of residence and the right of establishment, was adopted at the 30th ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 29, 2018. Twenty-one (21) countries signed it on March 21, 2018, at the extraordinary summit of the African Union in Kigali (Rwanda). To enter into force, the protocol must be ratified by 15 member states of the African Union. This document is a line of argument elaborated by the West African Observatory on Migrations to convince the States about the benefits for Africa on the ratification of the protocol.

  • Argument of African Integration

The free movement of people on the African continent was one of the ambitions of the fathers of African independence who wanted to return to the freedom of movement that our ancestors had before colonization. Since the creation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963, subsequently with the establishment of the African Economic Community in 1991 and the African Union in 2002, African leaders have always emphasized the need to facilitate the mobility of Africans on their soil. The protocol on the free movement of people makes this dream come true. The ratification of the protocol on the free movement of persons by States is therefore an important step for the African Integration.

  • Humanist Argument

All men are born free and equal. But not all men are equal in the face of mobility. Depending on his nationality, an African citizen may be refused a visa or the right to travel to another African country. In addition, the administrative and financial requirements for visa applications create many obstacles that lead Africans to pay for expensive tickets at the last minute because the visa is issued late. According to the African Development Bank[1] , it is easier for an American tourist to travel in Africa than to an African businessman. The entry into force of the protocol will abolish once and for all the visa requirement for Africans who will thus be able to visit Africa more easily in order to discover its cultural wealth and to carry out fraternal exchanges between the populations.

  • Economic Argument

The launch of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in Africa is a historic opportunity to facilitate trade, tourism and industrialization on the continent. The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) estimates that the implementation of the CFTA could increase intra Africa trade by 52% by 2022[2]. However, the benefits of this free trade zone cannot be achieved if Africans cannot move freely on their continent to make known and sell their products. The creation of a single market for air transport in Africa is also an important step forward that is changing the future of the African continent. The abolition of the visa requirement for African citizens traveling on the continent will allow everyone to be able to pay his plane ticket safely to make his trip. This will lead to increased transport and trade between African countries. In view of the economic benefits, African states have an interest in ratifying the protocol on free movement in Africa.

  • Sovereignty and Security Argument

The African Union’s protocol on the free movement of people does not put an end to the borders of States or their sovereignty on their soil. African States will have, according to the texts of the protocol, the right to control and register the people who enter and leave their territory. The contribution of the protocol lies mainly in the facilitation it gives to the mobility of Africans on the continent by allowing them to travel without a visa. States may also, if the situation so requires, raise reasons of security, health or protection of their environment to restrict the entry into their territory of persons considered to be detrimental to the stability of their country. Ratification of the protocol should not pose a problem since it takes into account the security concerns of States. It is also important to know that the protocol allows states to put in place, in successive phases, the related commitments, starting with the free movement of persons before reaching the rights of residence and establishment.

  • Scientific Argument

Academic exchanges, recognition of diplomas and the qualifications of the workforce are taken into account by the protocol. Thus thanks to the free movement of people, there will be more mobility for studies, exchanges between researchers, offers of seasonal or temporary services of competent people in various spaces in Africa. The protocol is therefore beneficial for a better sharing of knowledge among Africans, to increase technological innovation as well as the number of interuniversity scientific research in Africa.

[1] Africa Visa Openness Report : https://www.visaopenness.org/

[2] https://www.uneca.org/publications/african-continental-free-trade-area-questions-answers

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