East African nationals are inching closer and closer to full integration, when Tanzania last week scrapped its hitherto strict policy regarding residence status for non-nationals.
During the third round of negotiations for the East African Common Market Protocol that was held in the Burundian capital of Bujumbura, the government of Tanzania allowed East African citizens to go and work, and even acquire land, in Tanzania without hindrance.
In the spirit of integration and development, this is a good sign of the good things to come for the East African Community.
Of the five East African states, Tanzania’s commitment to the EAC was a constant worry, being the largest country in the community and therefore bringing or denying a huge market to the EAC in terms of its 39 million population according to a November 2007 census; but being seen as overly conservative and lukewarm about embracing many aspects of integration.
As recently as two months ago for example, this very revised policy on residential status was a no-go area for other East Africans.
The creation of a committee to oversee fast-tracking of the East African Federation was a result of Tanzania’s strenuous objections to what was seen as a fast-paced, hurried federation that it could not accept.
Even working in Tanzania has not been smooth without going through strict vetting processes, East African or not. Many workers in Tanzania, including journalists, can attest to this.
All EAC nations are giving and taking – losing out some advantages here, but gaining a bit there – so that the benefits of living in a wider community can be tapped.
The economic and political clout of European Union, albeit with some wobbles, has been a good example all along of integration. Because of our efforts to integrate here, we have already started enjoying many benefits that would have been unheard of without it.
We heartily thank our Tanzanian brothers for deciding to pull together in this one important thing of scrapping work and residence visas for us East Africans.