News - June 21, 2023

Free movement crucial for free trade in Africa – AfCFTA official

Mr Prudence Sebahizi, director in charge of institutional matters and programmes coordination at the African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA) Secretariat, has said free trade under the AfCFTA can only be achieved with free movement of persons, owing to the strong relationship between movement of people and trade.


Mr Prudence Sebahizi speaking at the webinar on Tuesday


Mr Sebahizi was speaking on Tuesday at the second slot of the African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU-ECOSOCC) expert webinar series on the AU Free Movement Protocol (AU-FMP) aimed at fostering dialogue on the AU-FMP as well as unpacking myths and misconceptions about labour migration and free movement in Africa.

“There is a strong relationship between the movement of people and trade and this [free trade] can only be achieved if goods, services and people can move freely. The AfCFTA has a protocol on trade in services, yet the service providers are humans, so if there isn’t free movement of people on the continent, then that protocol cannot work, which is a huge setback,” the AfCFTA official told participants at the virtual convening.

Sebahizi, however, acknowledged the progress made by some Regional Economic Communities (RECs), which are the building blocks for the AfCFTA, in the area of free movement, particularly the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the East African Community (EAC), whose member states have reached a significant milestone in terms of free movement within their regions, including adopting national identity documents as means for travel within their regions.

Likewise, Ms Katlego Nawa, a regional integration specialist, said for free trade to happen under the AfCFTA, transportation, communication, postal and courier services as well as banking services all have to be liberalized as they play a vital role in movement of goods and services. She described stringent customs requirements as restrictive to free movement of people, goods and services as visa requirements are.

“Visa-free entry is something that all African countries should adopt to ease the legal movement of persons, goods and services. In this direction, coordinated border management will mitigate the smuggling of goods under the AfCFTA. If our countries are not coordinated in terms of cargo security, there will be a humongous influx of goods that do not meet the guidelines contained in the AfCFTA Rules of Origin,” Ms Nawa warned.

Themed “Mobilizing Africa: Promoting Free Movement for Growth and Development”, the five-part webinar series is part of a series of physical and virtual activities, including regional sensitization forums and national dialogue series, to sensitize policymakers, lawmakers and civil society about the FMP. This is to inspire stakeholders to take practical steps towards the ratification and implementation of the AU-FMP by AU Member States.

The webinar series is supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmBH, which is implementing its activities on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Other institutions involved are members of the African Free Movement Consortium (AFMC), namely the African Migration Development Policy Centre (AMADPOC), the African Foundation for Development (AFFORD) UK a​nd the Pan African Network in the Defense of Migrant Rights (PANiDMR).


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