Methods and conceptual context for understanding migration management in regional economic communities in Africa

One of the purposes of RECs, as far as the AU is concerned, is to facilitate regional economic integration between members of the individual regions, which should ultimately lead to the integration of the whole African continent. This is based on the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (AEC)ZAbuja Treaty (Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community 1991). Based on the Abuja Treaty, RECs should provide building blocks for the AEC, which should be established in 2028. One of the central issues around the establishment of the AEC is that of the free mobility of people on the African continent. The importance of migration in continental integration is highlighted in that, when AU member states signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, in Kigali Rwanda in March 2018, the AU Free Movement Protocol was also signed in the same 10th Extraordinary Summit of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government. But the importance of migration is also evident in the fact that the AU formulated the policies for managing migration and as tools for development discussed above, years before the AU Free Movement protocol. If RECs provide a foundation for the AEC in which free human mobility is central, it is therefore then possible to discuss how these RECs actually manage migration and the implications of that for continental integration. Hence this chapter examines migration management in the SADC, with the objective of assessing the extent to which the experiences of the EU in managing migration within that region could, if at all, provide useful practices.

The chapter has made use of literature to gather data for the discourse on migration policies. This included regional treaties, protocols and policies as well as academic literature and reports on this theme. In analysing migration policies, it is further observed that regional migration might not be favoured by everyone. The questions that this chapter seeks to answer are as follows; to what extent is human mobility accepted and who has the right to free movement? What best practices regarding (the acceptance of) human mobility can the SADC region consider as best for transferring from the EU to Southern Africa? To assist in responding to these questions, a conceptual framework has aided in synthesising and structuring the debate of the study. Three concepts in this respect provide an essential guide to this chapter and these are regionalism, migration governance and free movement. The chapter begins by using the concept of regionalism to highlight the integration of member states between which migration is supposed to occur. It then uses migration governance to illustrate the various policies and plans that regional bodies have developed to manage that migration. And lastly to promote the concept of free movement as a tool in achieving regionalism.

Regionalism is defined as “the formal cooperation and integration agreements by neighbouring countries which aim to foster collaboration for the benefit of the region” (Jiboku and Okeke-Uzodike, 2016: 50). According to Soderbaum (2014) regionalism is driven by political ideals in the formation of regions and these often have a formal structure in the form of programmes or regional projects. Regionalism is manifested through the creation of organisations such as the EU, AU and the SADC regions (Soderbaum, 2014), which are discussed in this chapter. The concept of regionalism is therefore relevant to this contribution to the extent that it is utilised to illuminate the pan Africanism ideology, of which the SADC region is an essential part.

Migration governance refers to “the combined frameworks of legal norms, laws and regulations, policies and traditions as well as organisational structures and the relevant processes that shape and regulate States’ approaches with regard to migration in all its forms, addressing rights and responsibilities and promoting international cooperation” (International Organization for Migration, 2019:138). Based on this definition, the concept of migration governance refers to management tools such as policies and regulatory frameworks that regional bodies have developed. In the process, migration policies refer to a governments’ statements of what it intends to do (Bjerre et al., 2014). The chapter focuses on those policies which govern migration and the role they play in promoting or hindering free movement that leads to integration. It intends to follow up on the effectiveness of migration policies that regions, particularly the EU, have developed and how best the SADC can manage migration from best experiences that can be observed in the former.

Free movement allows for the entry and residence into another member state that has agreed to the policy. Free movement in this chapter is also used interchangeably with human mobility, which covers various forms of movements by people within the context of migration. In its basic form this type of mobility is implemented through the relaxing of visa requirements that allow people to enter an agreeing state for certain periods of time with a specific purpose (European Commission, 2020). In this regard, the EU has been successful in implementing a visa policy which has allowed members of the EU and Schengen area free movement within the region. This provides a context for examining what has worked in regions like the EU, compared to the SADC in respect of facilitating the movement of people; and the best practices that SADC can observe in those RECs, with a view to implementing them in Southern Africa.

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