Free Movement of Persons

One of the freedoms provided for in the EAC Common Market Protocol (EAC CMP) which entered into force on 1st July 2010 is Free Movement of Workers. Other freedoms and rights enshrined in the Protocol are Free Movement of Goods; Free Movement of Capital; Free Movement of Services; Free Movement of Persons; the Right of Establishment and the Right of Residence. In accordance with the provisions of Article 10 of EAC CMP, the Partner States guarantee the free movement of workers, who are citizens of the other Partner States, within their territories.
However, almost seven years since the commencement of the implementation of EAC CMP both workers and employers are still constrained in their efforts to utilize the freedom of movement of workers. Partner States still continue to restrict movement of workers within the region with Tanzania demanding for permit fees in excess of USD 500 while Kenya has put restrictions on the age to a minimum of 35 years and a monthly salary in excess of USD 2000 making it almost impossible for the youth to be the beneficiaries of the freedom of free movement of workers in Kenya. In addition, the schedule on free movement of workers in the Protocol has never been revised. Other challenges on movement workers include: : delay of issuance work permit; limited number of occupations opened up in the Schedule on Free Movement of Workers-Annex II of the EAC CMP; delay of issuing residence permit; existence of un-harmonized work permit regimes in the EAC Partner States. According to the EAC Common Market Protocol under Annex II, Regulation 6(9) it states that “ The work permit or a special pass issued under these Regulations shall be issued in accordance with the harmonized classification of work permit and forms, fees and procedures as may be approved by the Council”. This is not happening as envisaged by the business community.
In order to make free movement of workers a reality in the EAC region, EABC and East African Employers Organization (EAEO) therefore recommend the following:

1. EAC Partner States should review their respective immigration and labor laws and align them with the EAC Common Market Protocol; The EAC should develop a road map for the harmonization of all remaining laws by Partner States to ensure a structured approach and enhance the monitoring process;
2. Tanzania and Burundi should join other EAC Partner States by abolishing work permit fee requirements for EAC nationals/citizens;
3. Kenya should remove restrictions on the age to a minimum of 35 years and monthly salary in excess of USD2000 as one the conditions for issuing work permits to workers from other EAC Partner States;
4. EAC Partner States should abolish residence permit fees for East Africans who have been issued with a work permit
5. The Council of Ministers should deliberate and approve the harmonized fees and classification of work/ residence permits and forms as stipulated in the Common Market Protocol;
6. Partner States should implement the Standard Work/Residence acquisition Procedures as provided for in the Common Market Protocol;
7. EAC Partner States to open up further occupations in the Schedule on Free movement of Workers after consulting employers, workers organizations and private sector associations;
8. EAC Partner States should harmonize both Education and Skills Frameworks in the region;
9. Establishment of the Regional Labour Market Information System.
10. Partner States to carry out the manpower surveys in order to provide information on the skills gap which would support the higher education institutions in providing relevant trainings for the required skills in the region.
11. The harmonized work/residence permits application form should take into account the following major aspects. First, the form should bear the emblem of the East African Community just like the EAC passport and other entry documents. The form should proceed with a section on “applicant’s particulars”. This section should require relevant information as stated under paragraph 2 of regulation 6 of EAC Common Market (Free Movement of Workers) regulations which include standard travel documents, National Identity Cards (where Partner States have agreed to use them as travel document). Other information to be required here include full names of the applicant, address, sex, profession or occupation, marital status, place of birth, nationality of origin and present nationality and national status.
12. Partner States to implement the Standard Procedures as provided under Regulation 6 of EAC Common Market Protocol.
13. Adoption of electronic system in issuing work/Residence Permits: EAC Partner States to adopt Rwanda’s model in the processing and issuance of work/residence permits.