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ECA’s Songwe urges high level panel to help tackle Africa’s migration challenges

ECA16janMonrovia, Liberia, January 16, 2018 (ECA) – Members of the High Level Panel on Migration (HLPM), which was launched last June, held their inaugural meeting in Monrovia Monday to identify and articulate key issues that form the African migration story, challenges and priorities that will form the basis of their work.

In remarks to the meeting that served as a platform for Panel members to brainstorm on issues related to international and intra-regional migration, Economic Commission for Africa’s Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, urged the HLPM to facilitate Africa’s engagement on ongoing migration processes at global, regional and in some instances, country level.

Panel members, she said, should use their political influence and outcomes of the work that they will be doing to ensure Africa’s active participation in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration – a Member State-driven process which seeks to improve governance on migration, address challenges associated with today’s migration, and to strengthen the contribution of migrants and migration to sustainable development.

“At ECA, we highly appreciate your commitment to migration not as a contingent fact but as an essential feature of development. ECA will support the work of the HLPM by generating the needed evidence and facilitate the participation of the panel members in the relevant forums,” said Ms. Songwe.

In this regard, she added, the ECA highly appreciates the partnership with the African Union Commission and the African Development Bank in the HLPM.

“Thank you for dedicating yourselves to our common commitment to make migration work for all. This is a political necessity, an economic imperative and a matter of human rights,” the ECA Chief said.

For her part, Liberian President, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who chairs the HLPM, thanked the ECA, the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Panel members for their dedication to deal with migration issues facing the continent.

“As I prepare for exit from an active political scene, I am happy to convene and chair this panel, to discuss migration, one of the most crucial issues of our time,” said Ms. Sirleaf.

“We are all from somewhere but we all share one planet and our destiny as one humanity is the link that keeps us together.”

She continued: “In recent years, this natural phenomenon of people moving from their dwellings to seek wealth, knowledge or peace of mind has become the subject of political debates. On the one hand, we see the negative aspects of migration: thousands of young people risking their lives to cross borders for better opportunities in life.”

AfDB President, Akinwumi Adesina said he was humbled to be a member of the Panel.

“I very much appreciate your asking me to be a member of the panel,” said Adesina. “It is an honour. I would also like to commend the Africa Union and the Economic Commission for Africa for spearheading this work. The African Development Bank is very pleased to join you on this initiative.”

“There’s no doubt that the issues of immigration are at the heart of debates in Europe, given the migration crisis. The fact of the matter is, like it or not, there is a dominating narrative and projection of Africa in a negative light: a place with refugee and migration crises,” Mr. Adesina added.

Poverty, he said, is an important driver of migration. The AfDB Chief added work permits across Africa should be encouraged as a way for dealing with some of the migration challenges on the continent.

Thematic Issues

The HLPM chose for its engagement sic thematic areas to focus on. These are economic drivers of migration; population dynamics; migration governance and cooperation; leveraging financial and human resources of migration, human rights and migration data and research.

Ms. Songwe said Africa’s diaspora population needs to be mobilized to invest in the creation and development of enterprises in areas of origin, adding the productive reintegration of returning migrants also needs to be supported, including through enterprise development, better data and labour market information systems, and equal access to property and land tenure rights.

The Panel is composed of fifteen eminent persons from sending, receiving and transit countries, including representatives from Pan African Institutions, the private sector, academia and civil society drawn from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America.

Ms. Songwe said facts make it clear that African migration is not necessarily different in its magnitude from migration in and from other world regions.

ECA studies indicate that over 80 percent of African migration occurs within Africa with only a small fraction going beyond the continent – 12 percent to Europe and 6 percent to other countries.

In West Africa there are 4.7 million intra African migrants and 1.2 million migrants to Europe and America.

Ms. Songwe said continental frameworks such as the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community (1991), the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) and others are key elements in achieving regional integration and labour mobility in Africa.

“The ratification, enforcement and application of the norms enshrined in these instruments would go a long way in safeguarding the human rights of migrants,” she said.

Ms. Songwe added: “The High-level Panel on Migration is a significant step in the right direction as it will help define a realistic and accurate understanding of migration as well as the required action for Heads of State to handle this issue responsibly and effectively.”

Panel members highlighted regional migration priorities and actionable commitments that will lead to the successful implementation of their work plan in preparation of their final report that will be presented to African leaders at their AU Summit in June and used also for advocacy ongoing Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration discussions.

In her parting shot, President Sirleaf: “All our work will not be over by the end of the year. We are therefore charged with being ambassadors for a better understanding of migration in and out of Africa.”

The High-Level Panel was established at the Ninth Joint Annual Meetings of the African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development in Addis Ababa in April 2016.