Freeing the movement of talent in ECOWAS

Strict visa requirements, delays in processing work permits and lack of social security are some of the obstacles impeding the free movement of skilled labour across African borders, stifling private sector competitiveness and economic development. Yet it is widely understood that the free movement of labour will address skills gaps, reduce unemployment and stimulate economic growth among countries.

But the good news is that intra-African skills mobility appears to be on the increase. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Benin, Mr. Aurelien Agbenonci: “81% of African migrants are living in other African countries.” Speaking on the theme of labour migration in Africa, the Beninois Minister said that this implied a potential critical workforce that could be mobilized for the economic growth of the continent.

Mr Agbenonci was addressing participants at the World Bank Intra-African Talent Mobility Programme (TMP), held in Cotonou, Benin on 27 June 2016.

The objective of the meeting was to develop an actionable roadmap outlining the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to be signed by four TMP pilot countries in West Africa in the last quarter of 2016. The four countries are Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Benin.

In her opening remarks, the Programmes Coordinator at the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), Ms. Freda Yawson, urged National Working Groups (NWG) to work assiduously within the timeline to have the MoU signed by the various governments, emphasizing that political will is critical to the success of TMP.

The MoU is a multilateral agreement among the four ECOWAS member states to facilitate the free movement of skills across their borders with a view to enhance competitiveness and promote economic development.

The MoU would support policy and regulatory reforms in the coordination of social security benefits, implementation of Labour Market Information Systems (LMIS), facilitation of Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA), and improvement of Border Management Information Systems.

The TMP is a voluntary undertaking by selected African countries, spearheaded by Mauritius, to establish Schengen-type mechanisms on talent mobility and skills development. The Schengen Agreement covers 26 European countries that have voluntarily abolished border restrictions.

It is believed that a similar open-border policy would accelerate economic integration and the attainment of common policies in Africa. ACET serves as the secretariat for the West Africa sub-region.




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