Do the COMESA, EAC and SADC Migration Regimes Fall within the Framework of the Tripartite Free Trade Area

Historically, Africa has experienced numerous voluntary and forced migratory movements. Factors driving migration include deteriorating political climates in some countries, characterised by armed conflict and insecurity, and poor economic conditions. Climate change is also expected to influence future migratory patterns in Africa. On arrival in their host states, most migrants seek economic opportunities to support themselves, and invariably end up competing with locals for scarce jobs. Migration regulation in Africa is fragmented, with different states seeking different pathways to deal with immigrants. Harmonisation of migration measures at regional level is important. One such opportunity to accomplish this lies within the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), the still to be implemented free trade agreement between SADC, the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa). The paper explores the regulation and potential harmonisation of migration regimes within SADC, the EAC and Comesa. It highlights migration as a crucial motivator and driver of regional cooperation and integration, and a contributor to socio-economic development in Africa. The three RECs forming the TFTA have multiple protocols aimed at regulating the movement of labour across borders, but these are not being implemented at national level. Hence at the core of this study is an analysis of the different legal frameworks and policies governing the movement of economic migrants within the TFTA. Complementing the analysis are case studies of selected countries that explain the extent of implementation of the various REC protocols adopted at country level to regulate migration, and the challenges facing national authorities in dealing with migration.