Long awaited West Africa talent mobility MOU signed

Abuja, 15 December, 2016. West African governments participating in the Intra-African Talent Mobility Partnership (TMP) pilot programme have signed a much-anticipated memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Abuja, Nigeria.

The MOU for the pilot phase of the TMP programme binds four state parties, namely Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Sierra Leone, to address key constraints to the cross-border mobility of skilled professionals across their countries.

Hosted by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire on the sidelines of the 77th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), delegates from pilot countries and other ECOWAS countries attended the 15 December signing ceremony. They included:

  • the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Marcel De Souza;
  • the Chair of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers & Minister of Foreign Affairs, Liberia, H.E. Marjon Kamara;
  • the Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Sierra Leone, H.E. Momodu Kargbo;
  • the Ambassador of Ghana to Nigeria, H.E. William Azumah Awinador-Kanyirige;
  • the Ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire to Nigeria, H. E. Toure née Kone Maman
  • Representatives from the governments of Benin, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone.

Among the four countries, Côte d’Ivoire alone has 2.46 million migrants and 350,000 of these are from ECOWAS member states, said the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Marcel De Souza in his address. “This implies that Côte d’Ivoire has policies that make it an attractive destination for migrants,” His Excellency Marcel De Souza said, adding: “What is important is that these talents remain within the ECOWAS region.”

He noted nevertheless that 30% of migrants in ECOWAS travel outside the region – 15% to Europe (Calais), 6% to Central Africa (Gabon) and 9% to the US or other parts of the world. This is considered positive considering the challenges of corruption and numerous barriers impeding the free movement of goods and people.

Migration within ECOWAS is estimated to be seven times greater than in other regional economic communities (RECs) in Africa, the ECOWAS Commission president noted. “I believe that talent mobility will enhance rapid agricultural growth and accelerate business, resulting in faster ECOWAS regional integration,” His Excellency Marcel De Souza said.

He thanked the TMP pilot countries, Benin and Côte d’Ivoire representing the Francophone countries and Ghana and Sierra Leone representing the Anglophone countries, for their demonstrated commitment to the TMP Programme, and urged the World Bank to help extend the programme to the rest of the ECOWAS member countries.

The signing of the MOU means that countries can now begin preparations for the implementation of agreed reforms across the areas identified.

The TMP is a voluntary undertaking by some African countries seeking to establish Schengen-type mechanisms to accelerate economic integration, open borders, and common policies and laws in Africa. Financed by the World Bank’s Development Grant Facility and managed by the Regional Multidisciplinary Centre of Excellence (RMCE) in Mauritius, the programme consists of three sub-regional initiatives in the APEI cluster (part of COMESA), East Africa and West Africa. The African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET) acts as the secretariat for West Africa and manages and coordinates TMP activities across the four pilot countries.

Over the past three years, countries have engaged in five critical sets of activities:

  1. Created a network of reformers and technical experts for peer learning and support;
  2. Conducted country assessments of constraints, critical skills gaps, and likely impact on reforms and mitigating measures;
  • Completed a series of multi-stakeholder dialogues and exchanges with over 500 stakeholders;
  1. Completed capacity building workshops and trainings for policy-makers and personnel involved in the implementation of key reforms; and
  2. Prepared a Framework Agreement (MOU) of priority reforms to be undertaken by participating countries.

This MOU falls within the framework of the existing ECOWAS protocols on Free Movement of Persons, but focuses on five key areas of importance to the mobility of professionals. These are access to work permits, mutual recognition agreements, portability of social security, labour market information systems and border management.

ACET’s director of policy advisory, Dr Ed Brown, thanked the ECOWAS Commission, the governments of Benin, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, as well as ACET’s team of country consultants and experts and the team at RMCE, for making possible the signing of the MOU.

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