Towards the smooth movement of people across SADC

SANF 19 no 10
The smooth movement of people across borders is recognized as both a catalyst and a benefit of deepening regional integration in southern African.

One of the main goals of the establishment of Southern African Development Community (SADC) was to allow citizens to move more easily across the region and participate fully in the integration agenda and the regional economy.

To this end, SADC has put in a place a number of legal instruments to facilitate and promote increased movement of SADC citizens within the region.

The main legal instrument is the Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons adopted in 2005, which provides for the harmonization of national laws to promote free movement of people around the region.

Other legal instruments include the Protocol on Education and Training (1997), Protocol on Development of Tourism (1998) and the Protocol on Employment and Labour (2014).

The Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons calls for the harmonisation of laws and administrative practices so that citizens from any of the SADC Member States are able to enter another country in the region for a maximum period of 90 days per year without needing a visa.

Other key targets set out in the protocol include standardisation of immigration forms used by travelling citizens and the establishment of dedicated SADC desks at all ports of entry to facilitate smooth processing of travel documents for SADC citizens and residents at border posts.

Although the Protocol is not yet in force, SADC Member States have made steady progress in implementing some of the activities identified, and a number of countries have adopted a gradual approach towards removing barriers to the movement of people.

Most Member States are now becoming more open to citizens from SADC. For example, more and more countries in the region have abolished visa requirements or reduced the cost and time required to acquire one.

All SADC citizens do not require visas before traveling to Mauritius, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.

Eight other countries have significantly eased visa requirements for citizens of other SADC Member States. These are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.

However, the citizens of most SADC Member States still require visas to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Citizens from Madagascar, Mauritius, Zambia and Zimbabwe can travel to DRC without needing a visa.

Member States that still require visas from citizens of a number of other Member States are Angola and Madagascar.

Citizens required to obtain visas before travelling to Madagascar are those from Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.

Angola requires a visa from citizens of DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and Zambia.

Compared to other regions in Africa, SADC Member States have established more mechanisms that allow people to move freely across borders.

According to Africa Visa Openness Report 2018 published jointly by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union Commission, SADC has the largest number of countries in the top 20 of African states with open borders.

Seychelles, a SADC Member State, was ranked as the country with the most open borders on the continent as it does not require visas from citizens of all other African countries.

Other SADC Member States in the top 20 in Africa are Mozambique (ranked number 10 in Africa), Mauritius (12), Union of Comoros and Madagascar (joint number 14), Tanzania (18) and Zimbabwe (20).

Although SADC Member States are making steady progress to promote the smooth movement of people across the region, more needs to be done to ensure citizens fully enjoy the benefits of belonging to a shared community in southern Africa. SADC Today


Southern African News Features offers a reliable source of regional information and analysis on the Southern African Development Community, and is provided as a service to the SADC region. 

This article may be reproduced with credit to the author and publisher.

SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985.      Email sanf[at]sardc.net     

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