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ion in Thailand | true24hd online | Updated: 2024-07-19 21:02:23

African Heads of State pose for a group photograph before the opening ceremony of the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa on Feb 17, 2024. [Photo/VCG]

Parliamentarians of the African Union are actively promoting the ratification of a protocol on the free movement of people across the continent, aiming to spur tourism and trade.

Margaret Jepkoech Kamar, a Kenyan senator and member of the Pan-African Parliament committee on trade, customs and immigration, said the parliament will promote trust among African countries.

"We are involved in capacity building for Pan-African Parliament members and African countries' members of parliament to build trust, because free movement of people will create more jobs. If Africa can be open, more companies will invest and create more jobs," Kamar told China Daily in Johannesburg, South Africa.

About 250 MPs across the continent gathered in Johannesburg for a meeting that concluded on July 5 at the Pan-African Parliament to discuss African issues.

Kamar outlined efforts to collaborate with NGOs and engage civil societies across Africa via the AU's Economic, Social and Cultural Council to persuade countries to ratify the protocol.

"It is important for the people to know that we need to be integrated to prosper and share the skills. We want to remove that suspicion that free movement means taking away jobs. There is no data to back up that fear," she said.

The Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment was adopted during the 30th Ordinary Session of African Heads of State in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January 2019. Its aim is to facilitate travel for African citizens holding valid identity documents.

Once operational, the protocol will allow citizens from African countries to visit any other African country for up to 90 days. It also mandates African nations to develop and implement programs that promote student exchange and research collaboration.

Currently, only four African countries — Mali, Niger, Rwanda, and Sao Tome and Principe — have signed the protocol. To fully enact it, a total of 15 countries must ratify the protocol.

Bashiru Silikie, an MP in Sierra Leone, said some countries have an "independent mentality" that prevents them from ratifying the free movement of people protocol. Some believe that by ratifying the treaty they will allow illegal immigrants into their countries, which is not true, Silikie said.

Boosting businesses

"We are advocating, appealing and encouraging African countries to ratify the free movement of people so that we can have people moving freely from one country to the other doing business with no hindrance," he said.

"We encourage countries to sign and domesticate the protocol so that we can be one Africa. We want seamless travel and borderless Africa to boost trade and tourism."

McHenry Venaani, an MP in Namibia and deputy chairperson of the Pan-African Parliament committee on trade, customs and immigration, said many African countries do trade with China and European countries and get more visitors from there than from Africa.

Allowing citizens to move freely in the continent can spur trade within African countries, Venaani said. The free movement of people in Africa should be urgently implemented since African countries share their cultural and historical bond, he said.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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