Good news came in over the weekend that Uganda has finally signed on to the lifting of work permit requirements for citizens of Rwanda and Kenya, which had between them already gone ahead in 2013 to abolish these requirements and implement the East African Community’s protocol on the freedom of movement of labor. The deal was signed on occasion of the recent summit held in Kampala of the three countries now best described as the “Coalition of the Willing” among the East African Community’s five member states.
Increasingly over the past years have qualified staff from East Africa been recruited into managerial positions and a number of professionals like accountants, lawyers and doctors too have benefitted from the mutual recognition of qualifications, allowing them to practice their vocation in any of the three states, subject to registration with the respective professional bodies.
The move is expected to help the three countries in recruiting competent skilled labour, which in the past was often sourced from international markets, but the cost advantage in Uganda will be a major one for employers who have to pay up to 2.500 US Dollars in annual work permit fees for citizens from third countries.
In particular in the hotel industry have many Kenyans found job opportunities in Rwanda and Uganda, largely as a result of better training opportunities in Kenya, where such institutions like the Kenya Utalii College have produced management graduates since the mid 1970’s.
This is yet another tangible benefit for citizens of the Northern Corridor Integration Projects which have benefitted through a range of measures, from common phone tariffs when calling into one of the other two countries to passport free travel, from a widening of air transport choices to recognition of professional qualifications and now work permit free employment.
Of the remaining two EAC countries has Tanzania steadfastly refused to be part of the fast-tracking of such people friendly solutions and even stayed out of the rapid joint implementation of major infrastructure projects. Meanwhile is Burundi in political and economic freefall with not even a budget being read last week, a sign how political powergrabs can impact on the fate of an entire nation, leaving the smallest EAC economy out in the cold and literally divorced from the rest of the East African Community.