SADC - Free Movement of Persons

One of the main objectives of the SADC Treaty is the promotion of policies that aim to eliminate obstacles to the free movement of persons in the region. A draft Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons within SADC was introduced in 1996, but was replaced by the more restrictive Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of Persons in 1997. The restriction was due to the income disparities that create imbalances in migration flows between member States. The 1997 Protocol was further revised and adopted in 2005, which ensures granting visa-free entry, with lawful purpose, to citizens from other member States for a maximum of 90 days. The protocol is however not operational due to inadequate ratifications by member States. So far, only Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland have signed and ratified the Protocol. [1] Although the Protocol is not operational, it makes provision for member States to conclude bilateral agreements for visa exemptions. Most member States have exempted each other from visa requirements. However, citizens of SADC member States require visas for entering Angola, DRC and Madagascar. Moreover, there have been talks on a proposed single SADC passport initiative in the coming future.

The SADC Protocol on Employment and Labour (2014) calls for, among other things, member States to ensure that fundamental rights, in regards to labor, employment and social protection are accorded to migrant workers and their families. A Regional Labour Migration Policy Framework was developed in 2014 to assist SADC member States in addressing these identified priority areas. Furthermore, a revised SADC Labour Migration Action Plan for 2016-2019 was adopted in May 2016 to continue facilitating the implementation of the identified priority areas.

[1] Hussein Solomon, “Towards the Free Movement of People in Southern Africa?”, Institute for Security Studies, Occasional Paper No. 18 (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1997). Available from; and

SADC, Protocol on Facilitation of Movement of Persons (Gaborone, Botswana, 2005). Available from