Private sector roots for free movement of labour

The east African Community (EAC) partner states should expedite implementation of free movement of labour to spur trade and other economic activities, especially in the service industry, the private sector has said.

The east African Community (EAC) partner states should expedite implementation of free movement of labour to spur trade and other economic activities, especially in the service industry, the private sector has said.

Antoine Kamanzi, the Private Sector Federation (PSF) director of advocacy, said operationalising the protocol would boost revenue collection among EAC members besides other benefits.

“It is important that governments remove barriers that are limiting free movement of people in the region. This will greatly improve performance of many sectors in EAC member states that lack skilled personnel like the service sector,” he said.

Kamanzi was speaking during a training workshop organised by PSF, the International Trade Centre and the East African Professional Services Platform.

Although the EAC common market protocol provides for free movement of labour across the EAC bloc, it has not been implemented by members due to various reasons.

According to Article 7, sub-section 5 of of the protocol: “The free movement of persons shall be subject to limitations imposed by the host partner state on grounds of public policy, scrutiny or public health.”

The private sector said if these barriers are not removed, the realisation of free movement of workers and services will remain a pipe dream.

“We recently discovered that the implementation of common market protocol has stagnated because negotiations on the issue of free movement of workers and services broke down,” said Vincent Olouch from the East African Professional Services Platform.

He said the workshop helped the group understand the challenges workers in the private sector were facing, noting that they would raise them with the East African Community secretariat.

Malcolm McKinnon, from the International Trade Centre, noted EAC members would benefit from cross-border trade, tourism, supplies sector, joint-ventures and setting up subsidiaries firms.

“Free movement of workers should ensure that people do not fear seeking opportunities in other EAC countries,” he said.

Mckinnon, however, advised people interested in such opportunities to first study the labour market needs in given countries because people in various professions are remunerated differently. One should also identify those countries with skill gaps.

In 2012, the service sector in Rwanda grew by 12 per cent, hence surpassing the industrial and agricultural sectors, which grew by 7 and 3 per cent, respectively.

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