Kampala — The Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) is fast-tracking a protocol to allow free movement of people and cattle in the region.
Officials working on the protocol say the regional arrangement is in line with the continental protocol on free movement of people and the African passport that was signed by 29 countries, including Uganda last month.
The AU's free movement protocol is part of the Continental Free Trade Area, the world's largest market with support of 44 African countries.
The Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen Jeje Odongo, yesterday told a meeting of experts on the Igad protocol in Kampala that besides regional governments seeking to undo the colonial borders, free movement of people will deepen the ongoing integration process.
"If the colonialists did not partition this continent, we would not be here discussing this issue of migration and free movement," Gen Odongo said.
He said movement of people should only be regulated, especially for law abiding citizens but not complicated like it is the case to cross to some countries that require entry visas.
According to the Igad protocol, member states, in accordance with their national laws, also have to guarantee protection of the citizens of other member states.
The International Organisation for Migration's chief of Uganda Mission, Mr Ali Abdi, described the meeting on the free movement protocol as a "reflection that no individual agency or country can address migration on its own but rather that migration requires strong partnerships, if we are to realise its full potential".
Mr Abdi said migration has brought numerous macro-level benefits to continents that were quick to realise its benefits and moved to facilitate the free movement of both people and goods.
However, Africa has not been as quick given the lowest levels of intra-regional trade at just 18 per cent compared to Europe's 69 per cent, Asia with 52 per cent and North America at 50 per cent.
"In 2015, the World Bank found that Africa was only contributing 2.4 per cent to the global export volumes," Mr Abdi said.
"Unfortunately, the main reason why intra-African trade is grossly low is because Africa remains the least integrated of all world regions," he added.
Meanwhile, South Sudan acting foreign affairs minister Martin Lomuro yesterday asked for Igad help to deal with asylum seekers, including politicians, who reside in different capitals and have illicitly amassed vast wealth.