Writes Baboloki Semele
Botswana is gearing up to host the 8th Pan African Forum on Migration, scheduled to take place from October 31st to November 2nd, 2023. This momentous event, known as PAFoM-8, will revolve around the theme “Bolstering Free Movement and Trade Nexus in AfCFTA: Optimizing Benefits of Migration, Labor Migration, and Development.” Among its objectives, PAFoM-8 seeks to align with the 2023 African Union theme, “Acceleration of AfCFTA Implementation,” by delving into the interplay between the AfCFTA, the Free Movement of Persons, Migration, and Labor Migration across the continent.
Special emphasis will be placed on the experiences of women and men migrant workers and the exploration of exemplary mechanisms that stakeholders—ranging from countries of origin and destination to civil society organizations and social partners—can employ to highlight the benefits derived from integrated economic development in Africa.
This forum aims to:
– Enhance the understanding of the relationship between migration, labor migration, free movement, and trade, elucidating the socio-economic benefits and positive multiplier effects within this dynamic.
– Propose concrete initiatives that illustrate the symbiotic connection between trade and the free movement of people, especially labor, and its role in continental integration and AfCFTA implementation.
– Catalyze discourse on labor migration and migration-trade nexus, ultimately advancing the realization of the African Economic Community single market.
– Foster discussions on the removal of barriers that hinder the advancement of the Free Movement of People in Africa.
– Examine the impact of legal identity and border management on free movement and AfCFTA; and
– Explore digital technological advancements for the collection of accurate data and information to generate vital statistics related to Free Movement, Labor Migration, and Migration for development.
Key anticipated outcomes of the forum include:
Sharing and dissemination of documented experiences, lessons learned, and best practices related to migration and trade nexus initiatives.
The development and affirmation of recommendations for strategic actions aimed at optimizing labor migration to bolster AfCFTA.
The strategic positioning of AU Migration and Labor Migration governance policies in the context of regional integration and the promotion of AfCFTA, in alignment with the AU’s 2023 annual theme.
Framing and transforming intra-Africa policy sub-themes for migration and labor migration-trade nexus into a syllabus for knowledge production to advance AfCFTA.
The Pan African Forum on Migration (PAFoM) is a continental interstate dialogue framework on Migration convened by the African Union (AU). It serves as a platform for African Union Member States and other stakeholders within the migration field to engage in discussions and deliberations on various migration and human mobility topics in Africa. As a continental Migration Governance Conference, PAFoM offers an opportunity for AU Member States, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), and other relevant stakeholders to exchange information, share best practices, and learn from each other with the aim of improving migration governance on the continent.
PAFoM has evolved significantly over its eight-year existence, emerging as a premier continental forum that shapes and contributes to the improvement of migration governance in Africa, aligning with the AU Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The 7th Pan African Forum on Migration (PAFoM-7) focused on the impact of Climate Change on Migration and displacement governance in the continent. It brought together relevant Ministers of Migration and Climate-related issues, along with experts, to provide policy and operational guidance on mitigating climate-induced migration and displacements at national, regional, and continental levels for socioeconomic development.
While the movement of people across African borders is a key objective, it is essential to recognize that many countries on the continent remain relatively inaccessible to citizens of other African states. The Africa Visa Openness Report (2022) revealed that 32 countries still require nationals from at least half of the continent’s countries to obtain a visa before traveling. Additionally, 48 countries (89%) offer visa-free travel to the nationals of at least one other African country, while 42 countries (78%) provide visa-free travel to the nationals of at least 5 other African countries. Three African countries (6%) offer visa-free travel to citizens of all other African countries. Visa on arrival is offered by 29 countries (54%) to nationals of at least one other African country, and a total of 24 countries (44%) offer a visa on arrival to the nationals of 5 or more countries, with 14 countries (24%) offering a visa on arrival to 35 or more African countries.
The AU Agenda 2063 incorporates the introduction of an “African Passport and free movement of people” within its first ten years as one of its flagship programs. Implementing Agenda 2063’s provisions on migration would require transforming Africa’s restrictive laws on the movement of people, and promoting the issuance of visas by Member States to enhance free movement of all African citizens across the continent by 2018. This entails not only the free movement of people but also the free movement of goods, services, capital, and easy access to visas at the point of entry to any Member State.
In recent times, global migration has gained significant geopolitical importance, with the world experiencing higher numbers of migrants than ever before. The issues of global inequality, unemployment, and decent work have increased substantially, with Africa bearing a disproportionate burden.
The trend toward more restrictive migration policies in the developed world, and in some economically advanced African countries, has led to a proliferation of barriers to migration within Africa and between Africa and the rest of the world. These regressive global migration developments have led to a perceptible reduction in opportunities for cross-border exchanges, economic development, cultural exchange, tourism, and more. To promote free movement of people, both at continental and REC levels, it is essential to frame free movement as a managed and non-threatening process for Africa.
Numerous progressive continental legal instruments and policy frameworks have been implemented, in line with Goal 1, Aspiration 2 of Agenda 2063. This strives to accelerate progress toward continental unity and integration, fostering sustained growth, trade, exchanges of goods and services, free movement of people, and capital through the establishment of a United Africa and the fast-tracking of economic integration via the Continental Free Trade Area.
A poorly governed labor migration system can lead to increased irregular migration, perpetuate exploitation, and create governance challenges for countries of origin, transit, and destination. Both the AfCFTA and Free Movement Protocol underscore the need for strong labor market institutions. In line with this notion, the Joint Labor Migration Program (JLMP) for Africa was adopted by African Heads of State and Government in January 2015 as a comprehensive labor migration governance approach. Focusing on intra-African labor migration, JLMP’s overall goal is to “strengthen effective governance and regulation of labor migration and mobility in Africa” to enhance trade, integration, and sustainable development.