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Free Movement critical for ACFTA implementation

Africa, a continent often characterized as being “on the move,” continues to experience a significant rise in documented migrants, nearly doubling since 2010, thereby sustaining a two-decade trend of expansion. To tackle the complex challenges arising from this migration phenomenon, the African Union (AU) took a significant step in 2018 by adopting the Free Movement Protocol (FMP). Although the FMP garnered initial support, with 54 AU member states signing it by April 2023, only four have taken the crucial step of ratifying it. Consequently, while the FMP holds great potential to address migration issues in Africa, it remains largely underutilized, prompting a call to action to encourage member states to ratify, domesticate, and implement it.

Recognizing the imperative for a more comprehensive dialogue on the FMP, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has collaborated with the African Union Commission (AUC) and other stakeholders to promote the implementation of continental and regional migration policies in Africa. This initiative focuses on labor migration and free movement and is aptly named the “Support to the African Union (AU) on Labor Migration and Free Movement” project. Within the framework of this project, GIZ, in partnership with the AU Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU ECOSOCC), has embarked on a mission to sensitize civil society organizations (CSOs) about their role in advocating for the ratification, domestication, and implementation of the FMP.

These engagements have revealed that while CSOs can contribute significantly to advocacy efforts, the real power to ratify, domesticate, and implement the FMP lies with member states. Consequently, there is a pressing need to establish more platforms for direct engagement with government authorities to raise awareness about the FMP, identify obstacles to action, and address these challenges head-on.

Beginning in 2023, AU ECOSOCC, in collaboration with GIZ, initiated the Migration Dialogue Series, a Multi-stakeholder Roundtable dedicated to the Free Movement Protocol. This groundbreaking initiative brings together key policymakers from various government ministries and agencies, Civil Society Organizations, the African Union Commission, ECOSOCC General Assembly Members, Concerned Member States, and Members of the Pan-African Parliament, among others.

The Migration Dialogue Series sets the stage for the proposed Inaugural Parliamentarian Forum on the FMP scheduled for 2024. This forum will serve as a pivotal platform for parliamentarians and high-level government officials to convene, gain awareness, and directly engage with the FMP. Its objectives include identifying challenges hindering action, proposing policies, and establishing common ground to address FMP-related issues effectively.

Both the roundtables and the 2024 parliamentary Forum anticipate gathering over 500 stakeholders from across the African Member states. These initiatives are expected to elevate the political relevance of an FMP network that supports the continent’s FMP efforts. Importantly, for the first time, parliamentarians representing diverse political backgrounds, along with high-level government and policymakers, will be equipped with the necessary policy tools, knowledge, skills, and mechanisms to champion the cause of the Free Movement Protocol across Africa.

As Africa continues its transformative journey, initiatives like the Migration Dialogue Series and the Inaugural Parliamentarian Forum are pivotal steps towards realizing the full potential of the Free Movement Protocol and addressing the dynamic challenges of migration on the continent.

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