Freedom of Movement (#LetMeMove)

Four years ago; I found myself in Arusha, Tanzania, on the invite of Arusha Symposium for three major reasons: participate; moderate; and effectively-communicate the proceedings of the three-day Symposium demystifying and unpacking – probably for the first time – AfCFTA & Freedom of Movement, and strategies for overcoming “implementation challenges”.

That the organisers – Pan-African Centre for Policy Studies (PACPS) – were audacious enough to bundle AfCFTA and Freedom of Movement together was encouraging and a refreshing change.

Four years later, after participating in, and attending numerous conferences around AfCFTA over webinars and parts of the continent, I have not hesitated to advocate a bundling of FMP and AfCFTA. Given the execrable parity of ratifications in the AfCFTA-FMP dynamic (47 ratifications: 4), it is high time citizens speak truth to power and call out institutions and stakeholders that have basically fiddled while the continent burned under restrictive visa policies.

For Agenda 2063 watchers, the stakeholders that have produced important technical work supporting the FMP have found themselves unwittingly working in a situation in which some of their staff do not appear to support the cause of FMP in their actions.

In 2019, the conversations around the topic treated by the Arusha Symposium appeared to be inherently complex – especially when juxtaposed against the equally-complex history of Africa’s integration that includes a patchwork of eight RECs (some of which are no longer fit for purpose, but masquerading relevance) just because of the johnny-come-lately in AfCFTA.

In 2023, the situation is far from complex: it is a simple matter of political will.

If South Africa can grant visa-free access to Ghana finally, what is not possible? If Mozambique can offer visa-free access to a number of African countries, why are more African countries, such as Botswana and Namibia still demanding visas? How can member States begin to lobby and leverage on more bilateral issues and agreements that will ultimately stimulate a cohering around the AU’s FMP? If, like the IMF claimed, AfCFTA is a game-changer, which game is it really changing – and for whom?

Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 calls for a people-centred continent, where women and youth play a central role, but the memo that many stakeholders have missed is the unwitting new bedfellow in the Agenda 2063 flagship project, SAATM.

The Single African Air Transport Mechanism, a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063, remains an initiative of the African Union to create a single unified air transport market in Africa to advance the liberalization of civil aviation in Africa and act as an impetus to the continent’s economic integration.

Interestingly, the month of November is also an important month for celebrating African aviation because of Yamoussoukro Declaration day, which was first celebrated in 2020. YD day, celebrated on 14 November, is an attempt for AU member States to celebrate the liberalisation of scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services within Africa and with an overall aim of removing restrictions on traffic rights, capacity and frequency between city pairs. Alongside this is the very important easing of restrictions associated with travel.

Ever since Secretary-General of AfCAC was elected in July 2022, Adeyemi has made tremendous strides in mobilising political will around SAATM’s Pilot Implementation Project (SAATM-PIP) to the point that there are now 35 member states that have signed up. That her legal background in her former work at IATA includes being a private sector champion of AfCFTA buttresses the point of how slowly and surely, AfCAC will be the ally FMP needs to remind AfCFTA about the centrality of free movement.

My latest writing project chronicles the advocacy on FMP, while assessing how much the “Superpower stakeholders” have really contributed to the conversations against best practices that exist on getting the magic 15 ratifications that would bring the AU Freedom of Movement Protocol to life.

Finally, I ask whether for the past five years since the signing of the FMP, many of the recognised stakeholders are culpable, found wanting as they fiddled while the continent burned under restrictive visa policies?

The Awakening: Let me Move!” will be launched in December 2023 to coincide with the latest launch of the Africa Visa Openness Index

At the maiden edition of *African Business & Human Rights Forum* in Accra in 2022, E K Bensah made an impassioned presentation about business and human rights and linked it to AU’s Freedom of Movement Protocol (FMP).
In the second edition of the Business & Human Rights Forum in September 2023 (hybrid), I revisited the topic of FMP, but looked at it through the lens of ethical mobility.