The African Union and the International Organization for Migration have launched a study that assesses the benefits and challenges of free movement of people across Africa.

The report is aimed at encouraging African nations to understand the role free movement can play in achieving the African Union’s trade and development goals.

The African Union has adopted a new protocol on the free movement of people. It says it wants Africans to have the right to enter and exit member states more freely.

So far 32 African countries have signed the protocol but it cannot be implemented until it has been ratified.

Director Political Affairs Khabele Matlosa says:”The minimum number of ratifications required for the protocol to come into force is 15. So far only one member state Rwanda has ratified the protocol, 32 countries have signed it so far. This means we still have a mountain to climb for the protocol to come into force.”

A study conducted by the African Union and the International Organization for Migration shows that many countries are reluctant to encourage more free movement due to national security and economic concerns.

International Organization for Migration Maureen Achieng says: “There is already fierce competition for jobs among citizens themselves. Allowing free movement has been seen to cause strain especially where migrants are seen to have higher skills. This is coupled with the fear for competition for limited public service.”

Rwanda, the only country to have ratified the protocol, is encouraging fellow member states that with robust states laws and procedures, free movement offers opportunities.

Rwanda Representative Hope Tumukunde Gasatura says:”The trade balances have increased over the time we have implementing this and also our tourism numbers have increased more than doubled and also the number of conferences hosted in Rwanda have increased – of course all these supplemented by other policies.”

Some other member countries are gradually making progress. Kenya has decided that all citizens from African countries receive a visa on arrival.

Ethiopia has adopted an electronic visa system and the Seychelles has abolished visas for African citizens.

The African Union is hoping for more action as its 2018 deadline for visa abolition on the continent has already arrived.

The African Union is working on implementing the issuance of an African passport for all with the hope that it will be a major catalyst for the free movement of persons within the continent.

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