ECCAS, COMESA Conference on Labour Migration Kicks off in Kampala

A three days Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) conference on labour migration has kicked off today in Kampala at Speke Resort Munyonyo. The conference that is being held under the theme “Synergies for Improved Labour Migration Governance has attracted participants from among other countries Uganda who are the hosts, Ethiopia, Burundi, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Sanusi Tejan Savage, the International Organization Migration (IOM) in his remarks said the African continent has undeniable challenges such as lack of recognition, compatibility and comparability of skills, qualifications, and experience across national borders.

Tejan underscored the need to protect the rights and welfare of migrant workers, including access to fair wages, decent working conditions, and social protection remain a priority of the IOM. He explained that IOM’s new institutional strategy spells out mechanisms for preventing exploitation, abuse, and discrimination against migrant workers, including strengthening legal frameworks and enforcement mechanisms.

“Furthermore, IOM is supporting Member States (including Uganda) in developing migrant welfare programmes, aimed at extending social protection and welfare support to their migrant workers abroad through country of origin initiatives,” Tejan said. Africa’s labour force is also facing dilemmas emanating from the weak ratification and failed implementation of the Free Movement protocol thus leading to wasted potential, reduced productivity and the inability of employers to obtain needed competences.

Odette Bolly, JLMP Coordinator, African Union Commission, said the Migration Policy Framework for Africa highlights the need for comprehensive and gender-responsive labour migration policies, legislation and structures at national and regional levels. Odette referred to the Ouagadougou 2004 Summit on Employment, Poverty Eradication and Inclusive Development which identified labour migration and regional economic integration among six key priorities areas of intervention.

“Following that Summit, policy and institutional coherence was recommended for better coordination and efficiency. It is widely acknowledged that regional integration and especially the free movement of workers – is critical for regional development. Migrant workers play an important role facilitating the flow of goods, finance, and knowledge between countries of origin and destination and promote fruitful networks which are beneficial to their communities of origin,” Odette said.

According to Odette, well-managed labour migration has the potential to yield significant benefits to origin and destination countries, including accelerating regional integration and the free movement of persons. In addition, he emphasized that increased intra-regional mobility is linked with adoption of free movement regimes among Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs), as well as the African Union Protocol on Free Movement, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment (2018).

Esther Anyakum Davinia Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations said majority of the migrant workers who go overseas to work are mostly youth. She cited findings from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics which have helped her government to refocus on skilling the youth through various programs and initiatives so that they are able to venture into entrepreneur initiatives and engage in other productive ventures.

“This is because labour migration was instituted by the Government of Uganda as a temporary measure to curb unemployment among the youth of Uganda. …sharing workshop among other things is therefore aimed at getting different views from member countries on how we can best develop partnership for labour migration and improve on the migrant workers potential in both countries of origin and destination,” Anyakum said.

Stephen Opio, Chief Technical Advisor and Head of Office International Labour Organization, (ILO), Uganda said ECCAS and COMESA conferences are increasingly necessary for overall coherence on the African continent, and is in line with respective mandates and commitments, notably respective protocols on free movement of labour.

“It is therefore important to emphasize today that these commitments and initiatives are in line with the ILO’s fair migration agenda based on the need to ensure all workers are safe with freedom from forced labour, occupational safety and health and other tenets or principles of workers’ rights,” Opio said.

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