Igad Embarks On An Ambitious Road Map For Visa-Free Movement.
The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has endorsed a roadmap to implement the protocol on the free movement of persons, which is anticipated to materialise within 10 years. This landmark development came on the side-lines of a high-level legal and policy expert meeting of the regional body that transpired in Entebbe, Kampala on November 16-17 and was also approved by IGAD committee of ambassadors and ministers in charge of migration and labour. Upon adoption by the region’s summit, the roadmap will ease cross-border mobility for its 270 million people, improve regional economic integration and development.
The roadmap is awaiting adoption by the IGAD Council of Ministers and Assembly. The report also said the roadmap needed to be validated by the experts of member states and then submitted to the IGAD Council of Ministers and the Assembly as an annexe to the Protocol. Currently, Citizens of the eight IGAD member states require visas to travel around the region, but experts say after the 10-year implementation of the roadmap will do away with this.
However, experts say visa liberalization shouldn’t be seen as a magic wand to the region’s woes of integration which has proved to be a nightmare for years. It will require bold and deliberate investment in connectivity knitted together by motorways, railways, flight routes and telecom networks which remains works in progress for the region to create such crucial links.
For Kenya and Uganda, the adjustment will be easy as they already apply visa-free travel under different trading blocs such as the EAC and the COMESA where they are already members. These ongoing efforts to facilitate the adoption, ratification and domestication of free movement of persons and transhumance protocols in the region will be a game changer to nationals of IGAD Member states who needed visas to travel and engage in cross-border trade.