UEMOA reflects on the free movement of people & goods
Following the 25th anniversary celebration ceremony on 10 January 2019, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) organised a second major event on 7-8 October 2019 in Ouagadougou to commemorate 25 years of integration among its eight member countries. Bringing together some 300 political leaders, intellectuals and civil society representatives, the scientific forum’s theme was “25 Years of UEMOA: Addressing together the challenges related to the free movement of people and goods within a secure community.” Four discussion panels focused on: 1) acceleration of community reforms on the free movement of people and the right of establishment; 2) innovative measures to ensure the effective implementation of those rights; 3) creation of conditions for effective regulations and community legislation on intra-regional trade; and 4) recommendations of new approaches to increase intra-regional trade. The UEMOA area is generally applauded for its great achievements in furthering regional integration. Among the key achievements, UEMOA Commission President Abdallah Boureima highlighted the unique visa policy (adopted since 2009), the guidelines for the free establishment of professions such as doctors, dentists, pharmacists, etc., as well as the guidelines enabling students from all member countries to enroll in any public university within the UEMOA area. However, there is a huge gap between theory and practice. Participants flagged the large number of border controls, delays and illegally-imposed levies, the distortion of competition, and difficulties some companies have in gaining access to markets within the Union. Intra-community trade remains low (passing from 9.6% in 1996 to 16.1% in 2018). “Our community is experiencing an expanding, multifaceted insecurity problem, which constitutes a major challenge for the process of consolidating and deepening regional integration,” Boureima stressed. The conference addressed questions about how the principle of the free movement of people and goods can be reconciled with security imperatives. Drawing on UEMOA’s key achievements, the UEMOA Commission is currently preparing the launch of a new TV programme entitled “Impact 8,” which will raise awareness about the Union’s citizens and highlight key UEMOA achievements that make a difference in the everyday lives of its people.