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Building on the Dreams of Kwame Nkrumah: The AU FMP and the Future of Pan-African Unity

In 1963, Ghana's visionary leader Kwame Nkrumah stood before a newly formed Organization of African Unity (OAU) and declared, "We face neither East nor West: we face forward." This powerful statement embodied the dream of a united Africa, a continent free from the shackles of colonialism and empowered by its collective strength. Today, decades later, the African Union (AU), successor to the OAU, continues to strive for that dream. A key element in this journey is the ambitious African Union Free Movement Protocol (FMP), a document with the potential to transform not just movement across borders, but the very fabric of Pan-African unity. Nkrumah wasn't alone in his vision. Pan-Africanism, a movement that championed the liberation and unity of all Africa, had long inspired leaders and activists across the continent and diaspora. But achieving true unity required more than just shared history and culture. It demanded a dismantling of the artificial borders imposed by colonialism, a system that fractured economies and separated communities. The FMP represents a bold step towards dismantling these barriers. Imagine a future where an entrepreneur from Senegal can seamlessly travel to Nairobi to pitch a business idea, a doctor from Rwanda can offer life-saving expertise in Nigeria, Rwandan students may seek higher education in Senegal, and South African companies can access into Ethiopia's dynamic marketplaces, a world in which talented Kenyan professionals can work smoothly in Nigeria, The FMP envisions this very scenario, allowing for the free movement of persons, goods, and services across Africa. This unrestricted flow of people, ideas, and knowledge has the potential to unlock Africa's enormous potential by promoting economic growth, social integration, and a stronger sense of pan-African solidarity.

The AU Free Movement of Persons Protocol (FMP), adopted in 2018, is a visionary agreement aiming to dismantle colonial borders and unlock Africa's potential. (FMP) This bold initiative, championed by the African Union (AU), seeks to transform Africa into a continent where movement is seamless, allowing citizens to travel freely, work across borders, and contribute to regional development. 33 countries have signed the FMP, and 4 have ratified it. While progress is underway, can Africa truly achieve Nkrumah's dream of a united continent if its citizens remain tethered to national borders? The potential benefits are vast. Free movement would unlock Africa's economic potential by fostering regional trade and investment. Imagine a continent no longer hamstrung by bureaucratic red tape, where skilled professionals can readily contribute to regional development. The FMP Protocol explains that the rationale of the contemporary initiative is that the free movement of people, capital goods, and services will promote integration, Pan-Africanism, enhance science, technology, education, research, and foster tourism, facilitate inter-African trade and investment. In recent years, African countries have made steady progress toward more open travel regimes for inhabitants of neighboring African countries, as well as nationals from other areas of the world. In 2019, 47 of 55 African countries either increased or maintained their travel-friendly policies. The average visa openness score of all African countries toward all countries increased from 0.425 in 2016 to 0.459 in 2019. In the 2020 Visa-Openness Index, Nigeria's standing improved by 22 places to become the eighth most open among African countries. (SAIIA) Ideally, this shows that there will be a continued potential increase in regional trade with freer movement.


The FMP isn't just about economics. It's about fostering a sense of shared identity and belonging. However, the road to realizing this dream is not without its challenges. Implementing the FMP effectively requires addressing existing security concerns. Strengthening border controls and fostering cooperation among national security forces is crucial. Concerns about national identity and potential strains on social services also need to be addressed through open dialogue and regional planning. There are also logistical hurdles. Harmonizing immigration policies, streamlining visa processes, and establishing robust infrastructure for travel all require significant investment and political will. But the rewards far outweigh the challenges. Building a more integrated and prosperous Africa requires bold action, and the FMP offers a roadmap for achieving just that. The success of the FMP hinges on active engagement from various stakeholders. Governments need to prioritize its implementation, investing in the necessary infrastructure and legal frameworks. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) can contribute to the success of the FMP in different ways. Civil society has always played an important role in the issue of migration inside Africa.(CSOs in immigration) In-depth study and consultations were conducted during the FMP's writing process, with civil society taking the lead. In the following months and years, the FMP requires those affected by the rules to work with the appropriate authorities to guarantee their proper implementation. This will necessitate constant, accurate information from prospective migrants and those enabling their travel. Often, government-led efforts are not successfully communicated to the affected populations.


The success of the Free Movement Protocol (FMP) hinges not only on government action, but also on the active participation of civil society organizations (CSOs). The African Union's Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU ECOSOCC) – the voice of African citizenry is playing a leading role in this regard. Established in 2004, AU ECOSOCC serves as an advisory body to the AU, bringing together social and professional groups from across member states. Through initiatives like national dialogue series, capacity building programs, and various engagement activities in different African countries, AU ECOSOCC is empowering CSOs to understand and advocate for the FMP.  Previously, AU ECOSOCC has sought to disseminate the Free Movement Protocol (FMP) and Migration Policy Framework for Africa (MPFA) within African civil society. The "forum", conducted in Ghana in May 2022, was specifically designed to promote Civil Society Organizations' (CSOs) awareness of the FMP in order to encourage participation and build their capacity to implement the protocol. This multi-pronged approach not only strengthens the impact of the FMP but also fosters public awareness and support at the grassroots level, ultimately educating citizens across the continent about the benefits of free movement within Africa.


The FMP is not merely a legal document; it's a tangible expression of Nkrumah's dream. It's a

call to dismantle the vestiges of colonialism, to build bridges instead of borders, and to embrace the power of a united Africa. As Nelson Mandela aptly stated, "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." The FMP is an opportunity to do just that, to create a future where freedom of movement fosters a stronger, more unified Africa on the world stage. The FMP, if successfully implemented with specific set timelines as agreed by different regional economic actors to show commitment to progress, has the potential to transform Africa. It envisions a continent in which borders serve as lines on a map rather than barriers to movement.

This journey may not be easy, but with dedication, collaboration, and a commitment to Nkrumah's vision, the AU FMP can serve as a cornerstone for building a truly united and prosperous Africa. The future beckons, filled with the promise of a continent where citizens move freely, economies flourish, and Pan-African unity becomes a living reality.

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