Operationalizing ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of People among the Member States: Issues of Convergence, Divergence and Prospects for Sub-Regional Integration
John Clottey, Ezekiel Aqyei
Migration is commonplace in the world today. Within the milieu of growing and intensive economic, political and socio-cultural interdependence among state and non-state actors, mass intra and inter border and continental movements of people have been on the ascendancy. Global estimates indicate that 3 percent of the world’s population are migrants (United Nations, 2006). The West African sub-region is no exception to this growing phenomenon. Of the 191 million migrants scattered across the globe nearly 7 million people hail from the West Africa sub-region (ibid ). Most countries in the world experience immigration and emigration in varying proportions such that each country is classified based on the proportion of migrants who enter or leave a state. Some countries are also classified as transit states as they receive many migrants who eventually relocate to other states. Since the 1980s, the issue of international migration has gained prominence with regards to relations between states and international organizations ranging from regional blocs like the European Union (EU), Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) etc. to United Nations (UN) and its specialized agencies for many reasons including the plight of refugees (forced migration) and the impact of labour migration (brain drain/ gain) on the economies of developing countries. This paper traces the historical antecedents of the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) protocol on free movement of persons, its rationale and discusses issues surrounding its implementation among the member countries. Section one looks at the historical background of West African migration, types and factors influencing population movements as well as direction of migrations flows. The next section examines the protocol and discusses the issues of convergence and divergence among the member states and identifies factors affecting effective implementation. The final section looks at factors required for effective free movement of persons, goods and services to facilitate the materialisation of economic integration.