The Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) rapporteurs are in the coming days expected in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on what diplomatic sources say is a “consultative processes” on the proposed protocol to allow free movement of persons and cattle in the region.
IGAD is an eight-member regional bloc comprising of Kenya, Uganda, Eritrea, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, and Sudan. The bloc stretches over an area of 5.2 million sq km, with a combined population of 250 million.
Sources familiar with ongoing discussions told this website that “all other countries so far consulted (except Ethiopia) have been positive” about the protocol which seeks to loosen travel restrictions within boundaries of the IGAD countries.
The rapporteurs were in Kampala last week, owing to the fluid political/security situation in Juba, to consult with experts from the South Sudan government.
The protocol on free movement of persons is enshrined in the 1986 Agreement establishing the regional bloc, with aim of facilitating the free movement of persons among member states to enhance regional economic integration and development and facilitate the regularization of the high volume of informal movement currently taking place and enhance economic opportunities.
The IGAD protocol would compliment the African Union’s continental Protocol on Free Movement of Persons that was signed at the AU Extraordinary Summit in March in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. The protocol was signed by five of the eight member states.
Ethiopia and Djibouti both signed the Continental Free Trade Area agreement, but did not sign the Free Movement Protocol. Although the Eritrean delegation, headed by the country’s Permanent Representative to the African Union, Mr. Araya Desta, was present, they signed neither document.
The views gathered in Addis Ababa, sources said, will form a working draft report on the free movement protocol which other IGAD technical organs will discuss before forwarding to the Council of Foreign Affairs ministers and eventually the Heads of States Assembly.
This is part of regional and continental effort to create an open, unified, regional economic space for the business community – a single market open to competitive entry and well integrated into the continental and global economies. Besides Eritrea, all other countries signed the continental free trade area expected to operationalise in September this year after national processes.
Already, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, are part of the East African Community (EAC) bloc under which intra-trade fell by 14.6 per cent to $4.4 billion in 2016, from $5.1 billion in 2015.
Africa, according to the World Bank has the lowest levels of intra-regional trade at just 18 percent compared to Europe’s 69 percent, Asia with 52 percent and North America at 50 per cent.