Stakeholders within the ECOWAS sub-region have been urged to ensure that the free movement of people, goods and services among countries is effectively implemented to enhance development.
Mr Pascoal Benante, Chairperson, ECOWAS Head of Immigration Meeting, who made the call said the protocol was designed to reduce barriers to Africans crossing member countries’ borders, but there was still a big hindrance to most Africans, devoid of its benefits of trade, investment, cultural understanding and scientific cooperation.
Mr Benante, speaking through an interpreter, in an interview with Ghana News Agency on the sidelines of the Seventh Heads of Immigration Meeting in Accra, said Member States need to share information for an effective implementation of the protocol.
The Annual Meeting is to enable the Heads of Immigration Services to consolidate and expand on the recommendations reached after due consultations with Regional Experts and stakeholders within the framework of the implementation of ECOVISA.
The Meeting, being held in Accra, is to discuss the report and recommendations from the Experts
Meeting, collective input on the implementation and review the procedures and processes for the implementation of ECOVISA in the region and present the design specimen of the ECOVISA for validation.
It will further boost and facilitate the implementation of the single visa (Schengen -type) system within the ECOWAS space, which is a top priority for the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.
The Chairperson said the protocol was only on paper, but when it came to its implementation nothing had been done, because citizens on the continent kept having bad experiences by moving from one country to another.
He said there was the need for cooperation, collaboration and partnership in making sure that “we implement the ECOVISA project in providing good wellbeing to our populace.”
He said there should be equal access to information by all countries because the project was significant to help develop the continent.
Mr Kwame Asuah Takyi, Comptroller-General of Ghana Immigration Service said it is important to state that the Meeting was taking place at a time that the Continent leaders had committed themselves to work towards the achievement of an enhanced political, economic and social Integration.
He said the coming into force of AfCFTA, which the African Union had articulated, through Agenda 2063, a long-term framework for enhancing an integrated prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.
He said it was, therefore, incumbent on ECOWAS Heads of Immigration and implementers of the ECOWAS Protocols on Free Movement to up their game towards proper integration of the continent’s Immigration systems, which could be a catalyst towards the achievement of Regional integration.
He said there was the need to work hard to achieve the deployment of a regional visa (ECOVISA) for migrants of third countries.
“This, when done, will enhance the movement of investors towards the development of the sub-region,” he added.
He said it was an undeniable fact that the implementation of ECOWAS Protocols on free movement within the sub-region by Member States has been met with some challenges.
The Comptroller-General said the lack of harmonization and coordination of national Laws and Policies of Member States had frustrated the capacity for a unified region.
Language differences, different legal systems, lack of single database, issues of harassment, extortions, and corruption of border officials, among others.
He said in the rapidly changing world, one of the prime issues of every state was national security and it was the responsibility of every State to protect its land and citizens from both internal and external threats.
“As a community of ECOWAS, we need to work towards effective collaboration and cooperation, by sharing intelligence and information, Joint training and awareness creation, human resource development in all areas of immigration, counter terrorism and transnational crimes among others,” he added.
He expressed the belief that “if Member States will pull resources together, harmonize national Laws and Policies, put in place inter-States infrastructure to build our various economies, West Africa will surely lead the way to the continental integration of Africa.”
By Morkporkpor Anku