Free movement of people across Africa: Alan Hirsch’s insights on the African Union protocol


Alan Hirsch, the director of the Migration Governance Reform Project at the New South Institute, recently authored a perceptive piece on <<The Conversation>> website regarding the African Union’s Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons. In his article, Hirsch acknowledges the protocol’s importance as a critical mechanism for regulating migration on the African continent, and emphasizes the advantages of unrestricted movement, such as commerce, investment, cultural comprehension, and scientific cooperation.

However, Hirsch also notes that many member states exhibit a significant level of reluctance to integrate migration issues due to fears of political instability and an influx of unskilled labor from impoverished nations. Despite these reservations, Hirsch maintains that regional alliances such as the East African Community and the Economic Community of Western African States have already eliminated restrictions on cross-border movement, and that the protocol contains safeguards that enable nations to suspend it if their concerns cannot be resolved through standard immigration procedures. Nevertheless, efficient systems for population registration, passport issuance, exchange of criminal records, extradition agreements, and comparable forms of cooperation are yet to be established.

Hirsch’s work highlights the significance of an institutional approach to managing migration on the African continent. He contends that only by engaging with more remote nations, utilizing shared documentation standards, exchanging information, agreeing on procedures for dealing with undesirable migrants such as criminals, and creating cultural exchange initiatives, can the continent effectively regulate its migratory flows without causing geopolitical tensions. Hirsch also points out that developing regional or bilateral accords on migration issues should be regarded as beneficial, as this variable geometry within regional economic communities can facilitate unrestricted movement and attract other members into the fold.

Hirsch’s article, “Free movement of people across Africa: regions are showing how it can work,” published in The Conversation, and his contribution to the Africa Visa Openness Report 2022 project, are crucial components of efforts to reform migration governance in Africa. We invite you to read Mr. Hirsch’s article, the full Africa Visa Openness Report 2022 (available for download on this page), and his interview for The Africa Visa Openness Index website to acquire a more comprehensive understanding of the institutional approach to migration governance in Africa.

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