The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), IOM and the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe have held inaugural meetings of their respective National Monitoring Committees (NMCs) on the COMESA Free Movement of Persons Protocol.
The meetings, which brought together representatives from a cross-section of government departments, including the Ministries of Home Affairs, Labour, Trade and Foreign Affairs, were held on 22 July in Zimbabwe and 28 July in Zambia. They represented a significant milestone for COMESA’s free movement agenda and for regional integration in general.
To expedite the implementation of the COMESA Free Movement and Visa Protocols, COMESA’s Council of Ministers decided that NMCs would be established in Member States. The committees will monitor and oversee progress, identify challenges, and provide support for the improved implementation of all COMESA free movement-related programmes, directives and policies at national level.
Speaking at the Zambia meeting, the country’s Deputy Director General of Immigration, Denny Lungu said: “The Government of Zambia shares with many other African countries the recognition of the need for organized and well managed migration. The mobility of persons across Zambia’s borders must be smooth, while protecting the integrity and security of Member States.”
IOM and COMESA are supporting the NMCs. “Migration holds considerable potential for economic, social growth and development for countries of origin and destination alike, as well as for individual migrants and their families,” said IOM Zambia programme officer Annie Lane.
“COMESA recognizes that for regional integration to be fully realized, citizens of COMESA Member States must be allowed to move freely in order to provide and enhance services, tourism, labour, cultural activities, among other aspects of the COMESA integration agenda,” said COMESA migration expert Houssein Guedi.
Although Zambia and Zimbabwe have not yet ratified the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Services, Labour and the Right of Establishment and Residence, the NMC meetings demonstrate the commitment of the two States to take the COMESA Free Movement Agenda to a higher level. Zimbabwe has already signed the Protocol.
The meetings were supported by the IOM Development Fund, through a capacity building and awareness raising project established to support COMESA Member States to implement the Free Movement Agenda. This followed a request from COMESA Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya and the governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe.