African Parliament Strategises for Continental Passport

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In short
Khabele Matlosa, the Director of Political Affairs in the African Union Commission, said African ministers have reaffirmed AUs commitment to free movement of persons in Africa.

Pan-African legislators have been tasked to lobby their governments to support the adoption of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons during the January 2018 African Union (AU) Summit.
 
The legislators are currently meeting in Midrand, South Africa.
 
Khabele Matlosa, the Director of Political Affairs in the African Union Commission, said African ministers have reaffirmed AU's commitment to free movement of persons in Africa.
 
He was speaking to parliamentarians in the committee of trade, customs and immigration.
 
Khabele said that ministers have recognised that free movement of persons, goods and services, far outweigh the real and potential security and economic challenges that may be perceived or generated.
 
He explained that once the draft Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment is finalised, it would be presented to the AU Summit for adoption.
 
It is anticipated that as per the decisions of the AU policy organs, the Protocol will come into force simply upon adoption without the normal requirement of ratification by 15 member states.
 
Legislators however voiced concern about the challenges associated with free movement of persons, with others saying that they were already burdened with the problem of refugees in their countries.
 
They also talked about the public mistrust about free movement of people, of foreigners taking up jobs and of governments' concern about the risks paused by criminal elements crossing national borders.
 
Dokolo County MP Felix Okot Ogong, who is attending the meeting in South Africa, said that Africa needs to promote economic integration and intra-Africa trade first, since internal displacement and refugees are already a challenge.
 
//Cue in: "We must...
Cue out:...poor people."//
 
The draft protocol defines free movement of persons to mean unrestricted mobility and migration of African citizens across borders for various livelihood needs. The current draft of the Protocol covers aspects of entry, residence and establishment.
 
The argument advanced for free movement of persons is that it will deepen continental integration, advance human and people's rights, and it is a move towards a visa-free Africa, and a common African passport.
 
A recent study by the African Development Bank, titled "Africa Visa Openness Report 2016", reveals that Africa was closed to Africans while wide open to others.
 
The study shows that Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other countries and yet North Americans require a visa to travel to 45% of African countries.
 
The study notes East and West Africa as the regions with free movement of persons, followed by Southern Africa. North and Central Africa rank lowest.
 
The legislators resolved that in regard to the common African Passport, states need to agree on its implementation and enact the necessary legislation in their own countries.
 
An all-African passport is part of the African Union's Agenda 2063, which envisions an Africa that is integrated and united.
 
Agenda 2063 calls for an African passport issued by Members States, capitalising on the global migration towards e-passports, and with the abolition of visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries by 2018.
 

 

About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.