IOM Urges African Countries to Ratify, Implement Protocols on Free Movement

International and Regional Cooperation, Migration Policy

Zambia - IOM urged Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs)  and their Member States to ratify and implement the protocols on free movement of persons in their respective regions in order to make the Agenda 2063 on Regional Integration a reality. Agenda 2063 is the African Union’s strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years.

Speaking at the opening session of the second Joint Annual Forum for Intra-Regional Forum on Migration, hosted by the Zambian government in Lusaka this week (4-6 May), IOM Director General William Lacy Swing told delegates that human mobility was an integral aspect of a globalized world. He added that African governments’ management of that mobility was key to the continent’s socio-economic transformation in the coming years.

“The time has now come to remove barriers to human mobility and enable Africa to benefit from the movement of human resources. Migration is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be managed, and if well managed, it is beneficial, necessary and desirable,” he urged.

Noting that some progress had been made across the continent, Ambassador Swing commended some of the RECs such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the East African Community (EAC) which have made considerable progress towards facilitation of cross border movement.

“ECOWAS and EAC have led the way by introducing a common passport respectively, which is a giant step towards eliminating barriers to cross border movement of citizens. This is very significant in promoting trade and migration within Africa,” Ambassador Swing said.

Charles Kwenin, IOM Senior Regional Adviser for Sub-Saharan Africa, said: “At a practical level, the conference seeks to provide a platform for African regional institutions and partners to share information on current migration trends, patterns and dynamics, newly emerging issues and reliable migration data at the national, regional and continental level in order to find durable solutions to the migration challenges in Africa.” 

“The best way to address migration and security is to enhance border management systems and not close borders or build walls as some African countries seem to be doing,” he added.

The conference also heard from Esther Mambwe, a Zambian cross border trader, who called on African governments to address amongst other shortcomings, the lack of transparency in rules and regulations, making it difficult for cross border traders to know their rights. She also pointed to inadequate border clearance procedures that disrupt supply chains and frequently undermine competitiveness by increasing the cost and reducing reliability of supply.

“Cross border trade has provided gainful employment for me, other traders and their employees. In particular, since so many cross border traders are women, many of them have been empowered economically and this in turn has had a positive effect on economic growth, poverty reduction, employment creation, and even contributed to government revenues,” she said.

The Lusaka conference, which concludes later today (6/05), has been attended by high-level officials representing the Secretariats and Member States of Africa’s eight RECs, officials and experts from the African Union Commission (AUC), AU member states, ministries with migration, foreign affairs, immigration, labor, youth and justice functions, UN agencies and international organizations. Also in attendance are representatives from academia, civil society, private sector and diaspora.

The conference is co-organized by the Government of Zambia, the African Union, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), IOM and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). It is co-sponsored by ECOWAS, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), UNHCR and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

For further information, please contact IOM Zambia. Charles Kwenin, Tel: +41.794067244, Email: or Itayi Viriri, Tel: +41.792854366, Email:

DG Swing addresses the 2nd Intra-Regional Forum on Migration in Africa in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo: IOM 2016