from ODIRILE TOTENG in Gaborone, Botswana
GABORONE, (CAJ News) – THE agreement by Botswana and Namibia to allow people to move freely between the two countries is hailed as a step in the right direction in a region where irregular migrants have repeatedly been criminalized.
This accord, the first of its kind in Southern Africa, will reduce barriers to migration and increase trade, offering a much-needed economic boost to each country and their people.
Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, welcomed this as a much-needed development for informal cross-border traders, especially women.
“This would hopefully facilitate their work which is crucial in alleviating poverty and food security in these countries,” Chagutah said.
“In the implementation of this agreement, we urge both Botswana and Namibia to take into consideration the needs of women traders who cross the border between the two countries on a regular basis,” Chagutah said.
He urged other nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc to emulate Botswana and Namibia to allow free movement of people.
“Doing so could unlock the massive socio-economic potential of the region by empowering cross-border traders,” the activist said.
“Allowing the free movement of people, goods and services between states in the region is essential for boosting trade and offering greater access to job opportunities,” Chagutah said.
By encouraging greater integration through free movement, it is anticipated SADC can help to address poverty and inequality by providing greater economic and social mobility to its citizens.
In signing the agreement, Botswana and Namibia are following the objectives of the SADC Protocol on Facilitation of Movement Persons Treaty.
The treaty is yet to be fully implemented across the region.
SADC comprises 16 countries, namely, Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
– CAJ News