The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has passed a Motion for a Resolution pushing for the elimination of work permit fees for citizens of the region as a way of enhancing free movement of workers.
The Assembly sitting in the Rwandan capital, Kigali on Wednesday, also commended Kenya and Rwanda for taking the first steps in eliminating the work permit fees for the East African citizens and asked Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda to do the same.
The Resolution notes that EAC citizens have been subjected to altered work permit fees in the region which are divided into several classes catering for different professions. Tanzania according to the Resolution has a total of 13 sub-classes; Uganda has nine, while Rwanda and Burundi have 2 sub-classes each.
An EALA statement says the Resolution was moved by Uganda’s representative Bernard Mulengani and seconded by Abubakar Zein Abubakar of Tanzania. Article 76 of the EAC Treaty endorses free movement of labour, goods, services, capital and the right of establishment within the East African Common Market.
Article 10 of the Common Market Protocol mandates Partner States to provide for free movement of workers, who are citizens of the other Partner States within their territories.
According to the Resolution, the current fee charged to obtain work permits also vary. In Tanzania, the fees range from six US dollars for peasants up to 3,000 dollars for miners while in Uganda it ranges from 250 dollars for missionaries up to 2,500 dollars for miners. In Burundi, the fees range from 60 dollars for students to 84 dollars for regular workers.
Mulengani told the Assembly while moving the resolution that objective of the work permit is seen as a mode of earning revenue and taxes or regulation of free movement.
EALA now urges the Council of Ministers to call for harmonisation of national laws in order to allow for free movement of labour and services. Supporting the motion, Abubakar Zein Abubakar said the move would create a sense of ‘East Africaness’ and ensure the realization of ‘Brand East Africa’. He called for a sense of identity and mutual benefit amongst citizens and said abolishing work permits is a step in that direction.
Mike Sebalu, another Ugandan representative, lauded the Motion as timely to take the integration to the next level, while Susan Nakawuki said the work permit fees are very high and accused Partner States of hiding behind bureaucracies to deny free movement of labour.
Abdullah Mwinyi of Tanzania however maintained that work permits were a monitoring instrument in absence of the identity cards. Mwinyi called for a scientific analysis to establish the amount of revenue raised by the citizens of the region arising from the work permits.
In response, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister of EAC, Dr. Abdulla Sadaalla, noted that harmonisation of the national laws was currently in progress and that Tanzania had reviewed relevant laws, in alignment to the Common Market Protocol. His counterpart from Burundi, Leontine Nzeyimana, pledged to pursue the removal of the work permit fees with the authorities.
The Chair of the Council of Ministers, Shem Bageine reiterated the need for all Partner States to fully implement the Common Market. He lauded Kenya and Rwanda for the bold move in abolishing permit fees. Bageine, Uganda’s Minister of State for EAC Affairs remarked that his country recently made the decision to abolish work permit fees for EAC citizens in Uganda.