Experts discussing trade, migration and regional integration at second intra-regional forum on migration in Africa

By African Union Commission (AUC)

The second intra-regional forum on migration in Africa, being hosted in Lusaka by the Zambian government, has heard a first-hand account of the benefits of facilitating free movement of people, goods and services as well as some of the challenges being faced in efforts to promote trade and integration in Africa.

Ms Esther Mwemba, a Zambian cross border trader narrated to the meeting of stakeholders on 4th May, how cross border trade has helped her raise her family. “Through cross border trading, I have managed to raise money to educate my children”, she said. She praised the one stop border post (OSBP) between Zimbabwe and Zambia, saying it has reduced transit costs.

However, Ms Mwemba also outlined some challenges that are common to most traders in Africa. These include security concerns, the fear by some countries of being overwhelmed by migrants, tensions with nationals, and illegal activities at border posts among others

The Lusaka forum, co organised by the Zambian government, the African Union Commission, Regional Economic Communities, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the International Organisation on Migration, is discussing these challenges and more. It has four main items on its agenda; migration and security (border management), migration and trade (OSBP), regional integration (cross border trade and mobility), and migration and human rights (health and gender issues). Participants will share experiences, lessons, best practices and strategies on removing barriers to human mobility and trade in order to boost intra African trade. The forum will also complement and maximise the synergies between other continental initiatives such as the one stop border posts which are being put into place to boost trade facilitation across borders. This is in response to AU decisions, policies and declarations on migration and development in Africa.

[Description: 193B4846] The meeting's opening session was addressed by Hon Davies Mwila, Zambia's Minister of Home Affairs who spoke on behalf of the country's Vice President Hon Inonge Wina. He called for human rights based migration policies. “Where possible, we must go beyond set targets and find ways of dealing with people on the move”, he said.

Speaking as head of the AU Commission delegation to the meeting, Amb Olawale Maiyegun, Director of Social Affairs, outlined the political leadership played by the African Union through the adoption of pertinent policies and decisions to foster integration; among which are the formation of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), the African Common position on migration and development, the Joint Labour Migration Programme, and launching of a common African passport.

[Description: 193B4834] He cited the decision of the 25th summit of the African Union, made in Johannesburg in June 2015, where African leaders reaffirmed previous commitments aimed at accelerating mobility and integration; including speeding up the implementation of the continent wide visa free regimes and issuance of visas at ports of entry. In this regard, he indicated that there is progress as shown by countries such as Ghana and Rwanda. However he pointed to security as one major concern dominating the migration agenda in Africa.

The Director General of the IOM Mr Lacy Swing recalled the importance of intra African trade. So important is it that the African Union has identified the continental free trade area (CFTA) as one of the 12 priority projects under Agenda 2063. He noted that, far from being a problem, migration is an opportunity to be seized.

The meeting was also addressed by representatives from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Its recommendations are expected to be presented for consideration and adoption by the AU Commission and the RECs for implementation by AU member states.