IOM Welcomes Historic Endorsement of the Free Movement Protocol in the IGAD Region

Addis Ababa – The recent endorsement the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons (FMP) by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and its Member States is a significant milestone towards catalyzing socio-economic development.

The Protocol, endorsed in Khartoum, Sudan, at the end of February is expected to be shortly presented to the IGAD Council of Ministers for adoption, and signed on at the next IGAD Heads of State summit.

Seven of the eight IGAD Member States - Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda - were represented at the highest levels at this meeting.

The Protocol, if well implemented, will ensure regional integration through free movement of persons, that will foster socio-economic development, facilitate trade and investment, ignite creativity and job creation, as well as the promotion of tourism in a region with approximately 230 million people.

Free movement is also vital in securing the livelihoods of 43 per cent of Africans who depend on informal cross border trade, many of whom are women, as well as for pastoralists moving within and beyond the region’s borders.

“Free movement of persons is critical to the achievement of the target of 50 per cent trade on the continent by 2045 to take place amongst African countries as envisioned in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 policy blueprint,” noted Maureen Achieng, IOM Ethiopia Chief of Mission.

Facilitating the movement of ordinary people across borders for livelihood, trading, business and other reasons, with them afforded equal protection under the law, is an extremely important shift taking on the continent since the modern African nation states, and current borders, were established.

The African Union’s eight regional economic communities (RECs), of which IGAD is one, are driving this thrust at economic integration. They are at different stages, with the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) and the East African Community (ECA) leading on this.

There is already some degree of free movement based on visa waivers between some IGAD Member States such as Ethiopia and Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, and Kenya and Uganda. The rest offer visa-on-arrival for a period of 90 days to nationals of sister IGAD member states.

The adopted protocol seeks to build on existing bilateral arrangements and to raise the IGAD free movement ambition, considering the African Union’s FMP that IGAD countries are signatories to. It will be implemented in phases, starting with guaranteeing the right of entry and abolishing visa requirements, followed by ensuring the right of workers to move across borders in response to market demands with them enjoying equal treatment; the right to reside in a third country, and the right to start a business unhindered in another country.

Workneh Gebeyehu, the IGAD Executive Secretary emphasized that signing the Protocol will open a new horizon that can lead to developing and strengthening all kinds of cooperation between the IGAD Member States.

Member States are to promote the free movement of goods, services, and persons as well as the establishment of residence. This will ensure that migration in the IGAD region is safe, orderly and beneficial to the citizens of the region.


IOM works closely with IGAD on migration related issues. It has continuously provided technical support to the IGAD Secretariat on a range of thematic areas throughout the negotiation of the protocol, and drawing from experience gained from supporting the AU continental Protocol that was adopted in 2018.


Read the Communique on Endorsement of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons here.

Watch the video here.

For more information, please contact: Krizia Kaye Viray at IOM Ethiopia, Tel: +251993531220, Email: