Rwanda sets pace on free movement of people

In previous years, professionals from within the East African Community (EAC), working in Rwanda, had been obliged to pay exorbitant permit fees, which only a few could afford. As a result, the country lost a considerable number of people with vital skills who would have preferred to trade their skills here, but were discouraged by the high fees. However on Thursday, the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration announced new visa and work permit regulations recently approved by Cabinet. These exonerate citizens from within the EAC, from paying the fees while those paid by other foreign nationals were considerably slashed. The idea was mooted by President Paul Kagame, during the last Commonwealth Business Summit in Uganda, 2007.

In previous years, professionals from within the East African Community (EAC), working in Rwanda, had been obliged to pay exorbitant permit fees, which only a few could afford.

As a result, the country lost a considerable number of people with vital skills who would have preferred to trade their skills here, but were discouraged by the high fees.

However on Thursday, the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration announced new visa and work permit regulations recently approved by Cabinet.

These exonerate citizens from within the EAC, from paying the fees while those paid by other foreign nationals were considerably slashed.

The idea was mooted by President Paul Kagame, during the last Commonwealth Business Summit in Uganda, 2007. This makes Rwanda the first country in the regional bloc to implement the recommendation of the Heads of State Summit, to move towards free movement of persons.

The move is aimed at improving the service sector. The decision will undoubtedly boost the country’s ambitions in pursuance of Vision 2020 goals, and strengthening its relationship with the other member states.

It is certain that this move will help Rwanda address the current skills gap, especially in the private sector. The economy is growing at a fast rate and requires a more skilled and competitive workforce to support it.

If this move on the waivers is monitored well, Rwanda will benefit a lot from the EAC’s experienced labour force, thus boosting the country’s development.

This will only make Rwanda a preferred destination for tourists, academicians, professionals and potential investors who will find Rwanda a better place to do business.

However, it is time for other EAC member states to walk the talk and respond to the call of integration. Rwanda has set the pace.

In doing this though, we should not flout other rules and regulations in place but we should rather focus on how to exploit the decision, putting in mind the country’s interests.

Systems must be put in place to insulate the country from wrong elements who might want to abuse this opportunity to import their selfish interests into the country.

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