ECA’s Muhwava urges Africa to speed-up implementation of continent-wide visa free regimes

Addis Ababa, 27 October 2017 (ECA) – The African Regional Consultative Meeting on the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration continued in Addis Ababa Friday with the Chief of Population and Youth Section in the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), William Muhwava, urging African governments to speed-up the implementation of continent-wide visa free regimes.

In a presentation titled; ‘Human rights of all migrants, social inclusion, cohesion and all forms of discrimination, including racism, xenophobia, gender discrimination and intolerance’, Mr. Muhwava said visa regimes and border restrictions still prevent free movement of persons on the continent with visa costs largely affecting the poor.

“African countries are on average more closed off to each other than open, making travel within the continent difficult,” he said, adding expediting the operationalization of the African Passport would facilitate free movement of persons.

With Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations nearing completion, Mr. Muhwava said ratification and implementation of agreed mechanisms on regional economic integration, free movement of persons and sustainable inclusive development was essential.

He said the African continent is now well equipped with a strategy, Migration Policy Framework for Africa, and a politically-validated programme of action, the Joint Labour Migration Project spearheaded by the African Union Commission (AUC) with coordinated support from the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the ECA, to address some of its migration challenges.

“The continent now needs to concentrate its efforts on working towards an operational roadmap,” said Mr. Muhwava, adding there’s no reason why Africans should continue to need visas to travel to 55 percent of countries on the continent.

At least 25 percent of Africans can get visas on arrival in other African countries while they do not need visas to just 20 percent of other countries on the continent.

Mr. Muhwava said the consequences of restricting movement are dire and include exploitation and abuse of migrants rights, especially women who constitute about 85 percent of cross-border traders in Africa.

States, he said, should strengthen mechanisms that protect the rights of all migrants, particularly those most vulnerable – women, children and the elderly.

About 31 million Africans, or little more than three percent of the continent’s population, have migrated internationally while the majority of migrants from Africa go to other African countries.

“Only about 18 percent of migrants from Africa go to Europe, and of the total migrant stock in Europe, less than 12 percent are from Africa yet the dominant misconception is that an overwhelming number of Africans are waiting to cross into Europe,” said Mr. Muhwava.

The misconception, he said, has fueled emotive reactions, policies and harmful responses to migration, including deportation, imprisonment and anti-immigrant language, especially during election campaigns.

The global compact for migration, when adopted, will be the first, inter-governmentally negotiated agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

The outcome of this meeting will inform the Global Compact on Migration process which seeks to improve the governance on migration, address challenges associated with today’s migration, and to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.

Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826