ANYONE with keen interest in current affairs should be in position to realise that today is the day when the much touted East African Common Market takes effect.
By all measures, it is a great day in the history of the East African Community. Having an interest in current affairs is useless if one is unable to interpret and take note of the implications of the Common Market. What is the Common Market?
How is it supposed to impact your life? These are just a few of the questions we have to ask ourselves whenever we hear about the Common Market.
The East African Common Market is one of the last stages before a political federation where the five East African Countries are expected to become one big country.
It basically allows for the free movement of goods and services in the East African Community which is made up of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and of course Rwanda.
This development has deep implications for the education sector and I hope all the stakeholders will be wise enough to address them accordingly. The education sector is the industry that manufactures the skilled labour that is charged with the development of any country.
For example, at the micro level, East African citizens are free to move and seek employment in any part of the region without the requirement of a work permit. However, this mobility will be driven by demand and supply dynamics like all other economic goods.
For mobility to be fully appreciated, academic qualifications obtained from any of the different countries will have to be recognised and accepted by different employers and academic institutions.
A Tanzanian trained doctor for instance, should be able to work in Ruhengeri without much of a hustle. Rwandans will now be free to work anywhere in Kenya or Uganda.
Note that there is always a huge line between the reality on the ground and what the policy on paper states. This reality has everything to do with demand and supply dynamics.
For you to move to another place in search of work there must be demand for your services and more importantly you must be qualified to do a good job.
One has to be competitive to move and therefore benefit from the fruits that the Common Market is promising. It is no secret that the five countries are not at the same level of development and the situation also applies to the education sector.
The education standards are quite different in each of the five countries and this will greatly determine the labour movement patterns.
The National University of Rwanda recently announced that it will be charging uniform fees for all East African nationals. Much as this is a noble step aimed at fostering the goodwill spirit of the East African Community, the impact may not be significant if there are no efforts aimed at improving university standards.
Students from other East African countries cannot just be attracted by uniform fees if the qualities of universities are still questionable. Graduates from universities will benefit more if they are competitive in the EAC labour market.
One’s competitiveness is all that counts since employers will be looking out for highly skilled labour.
To achieve this competitiveness and not lose out in this new arrangement, there must be deliberate efforts aimed at improving the standards in the education sector.
One of the reasons why Tanzanians have been a little jittery about the EAC is the perceived low standard of their education system.
This calls for all stakeholders to invest in improving the quality of education so as to make graduates compete on the EAC labour market.