International economic law (IEL) seems largely to ignore the governance of international migration. Yet most international migration is conditioned by economic conditions. Historically, the coerced migration of enslaved Africans, and other regimes of territorial relocation were instrumental to the imperial advancement and economic profiteering that served as the precursor to contemporary global economic and political interconnection. But even today, the global economy depends on international migration. The International Labor Organization estimates that “migrant workers constitute 4.7% of all workers” globally. First World economies (at least according to reported data) rely on international migration even more than those of the Third World—“[a]s a proportion of all workers, migrant workers constitute 18.5 percent of the workforce of high-income countries, but only 1.4 to 2.2 percent of the labour force of law income countries.”
International Labour Organization
Global value chains (GVCs), as a dominant form of capitalism today, have been a vehicle for entrenching the concentration of economic resources and power in the hands of multinational corporations. While COVID-19 compounded health and economic crisis, reports emerged that suppliers in the garment industry value chains have been facing mounting challenges as a result of unreasonable demands from big clients, mainly corporations in the United States and the United Kingdom.
A response to informality includes the suggestion that policy makers should formalize informal entities and activities. This suggestion holds that, responding to informality in such a way will ultimately help create better jobs, improve productivity and reduce poverty. But then, the question again arises at this point: is formalization the optimal solution? Shouldn’t the focus in the short-term rather be to improve conditions for informal sector actors and the spaces in which they operate than formalize? These are some of the broad challenges facing Africa, the AU and the governments of respective member states and other stakeholders as Africa proceeds with the AfCFTA.