Regional engineers seek bigger share of major EAC projects

Despite EAC’s Mutual Recognition Agreement, engineers still struggle to win cross-border contracts. Nadege Imbabazi.

Despite the Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) agreements signed among four East African Community (EAC) member states to ease mobility of labour and services, engineers are yet to pool efforts together to venture into major projects that are taken up by foreign contractors.

Under the Common Market Protocol (CMP), an MRA for engineering professionals in the EAC is an agreement for mutual recognition of professionals in all the states.

Similarly, a registration certificate or practicing license issued in one state is honoured in other states leading to free flow of engineering services across the region.

According to EAC officials, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda signed the MRA agreement in 2012. Rwanda joined them in 2016. 

However, Burundi and South Sudan are yet to sign because they have not yet established legal and institutional frameworks that regulate and oversee functioning of the engineers.

Despite the MRAs, there is little improvement in terms of mobility of engineers from one country to another and little has been done to ensure that they use MRA to pool resources and skills together to venture into bigger regional projects.

Several engineers who talked to The New Times during the recently concluded EAC media tour attributed this to the lack of awareness as regards to MRA, which results into little knowledge, unwillingness by some engineers to move across the region and foreign funders who come with conditions to implement projects.

While regional engineers say there are projects that still need foreign expertise, there are others that feel they are competent enough to implement if they joined hands.

According to Nicolas Musuni, Registrar at Engineers Board of Kenya, regional engineers have untapped potential and a larger pool to venture into bigger projects. There are an estimated 10,000 professional engineers across the region.

“By putting all the engineers together we become stronger.

Kenya has a pool of about 2300, professionals, Uganda 1000, Tanzania over 5,000 and Rwanda about 800, he said.

Patrick Barozi, Registrar at Engineer registration board in Tanzania, however, said that EAC engineers are partnering among themselves but in “very few projects” such as Tanzanian and Rwandan firms currently working on Rusumo hydropower project.

The mobility of engineers is not so impressive. Kenya received only 30 engineers who have registered from three other member states to work there, according to officials.

Since the signing, Tanzania also received 12 Kenyans, one Rwandan, and two Ugandans as professionals.

Rwanda received five Kenyan engineers, three Ugandans and two Tanzanians, according to officials, while Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania received one from Rwanda each.

Papias Kazawadi Dedeki, president for the Rwanda Institute of Engineers, said that while there are various factors to be considered whereby some bigger projects are negotiated by countries and are beyond the professionals, a developer comes with the funder, there is need to look for a solution.

He said they were working with various institutions to ensure that local engineers, including regional ones, have a role to play in the implementation of projects in the country.

“You cannot get up one morning and say you have stopped the Chinese firms. But what we are doing is that we are making it louder and clear that even if they come, they need to have some consideration to provide for the local ones, especially for the skills we feel our schools and our institutions have provided,” he said.

More advocacy, awareness needed

James Otieno Jowi, the Principal Education Officer at the EAC Secretariat and the coordinator of MRAs, acknowledged the challenges faced by the professionals citing a recent study that outlined a number of barriers to mobility, inadequate awareness and restrictions by partner states.

Other challenges, he said are data collection on mobility, coordination among the regulatory authorities, involvement of other key stakeholders, among others.

“The EAC is already undertaking advocacy and awareness creation targeting different stakeholders to enable the operationalisation of the MRAs,” he said

There are four professionals under the MRAs: Accounting, Architectural, Engineering and Veterinary.