Business operators and employees from East African countries will be able to work in Uganda without paying the work permit fees, an official has said.
Godfrey Sasagah Wanzira, the director for immigration said the move aims at promoting free movement of labour and investments in Uganda with the East African Community partner states.
The official, who spoke to The New Times last week in Kigali, said efforts were being made to amend the laws to allow the scrapping of fees.
“Our solicitor general is working on the ways of amending the laws to allow waiving of work permit fees to all East African countries including Tanzania and Burundi,” Wanzira said.
The scrapping of work permit fees was first done between Rwanda and Kenya bilaterally, before Kigali later extended it to citizens from the other partner states.
Currently a foreign employee pays $1,500 (Rwf 1million) work permit fees while a business operator pays $2,500 ( Rwf 1.7 million) annually.
The issue of permit fees has always been regarded as a non-tariff barrier that hinders the full operation of the Common Market Protocol signed to facilitate free movement of labour in the region.
Members of the East African Legislative Assembly while meeting in Kigali last year passed a motion urging the East African Community (EAC) partner states to scrap work permit fees, a move that would facilitate free movement of labour, goods and services within the community.
However, there has been reluctance by partner states to enforce it with countries like Tanzania, Burundi Kenya and Uganda continuing to solicit for the permit fees.
What traders say
Renatus Murindangabo, the chairperson of Rwanda business association in Kampala commended the Ugandan government for scrapping the permit fee, saying it was directly affecting businesses.
Murindangabo who deals in Inyange products said the waiving of permit fees will open doors for other Rwandans to open up businesses in Uganda.
Another business operator dealing in hardware, Sylidio Ubitsemunda, said some traders were being forced to use illegal channels to get the permits due to the bureaucracies involved.
“One could take as long as six months to obtain the work permit. It was a barrier to trade,” he said.
Ubitsemunda said some people were posing as government officials and extorting money from the non Ugandan business operators under the guise of looking for work permits.