Rwandan professionals are likely to continue losing out on the regional market due to lack of professional bodies that certify their qualification documents, government has warned.
Recently, engineers from Rwanda and Burundi failed to sign a regional mutual recognition agreement that facilitates free movement of engineers in all five partner states.
Rwandans and Burundians missed out on grounds that they lacked professional conformity and the necessary legal and institutional framework for the engineering profession.
Engineers from Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya will now have to move and practice their trade freely within the three countries.
The agreement was seen as a key driver of economic integration, increase availability of greater consumer choice of engineering services and engineering institutions; increase opportunities for mutual learning and sharing of regulatory experience.
A one day conference was recently organised by the Ministry of East African Community, to discuss the challenges and opportunities available to Rwandan professionals across the region.
During the meeting that attracted government officials, various professionals, Dr Pierre Celestin Kanimba from the Private Sector Federation (PSF), requested the government to put more efforts in advocacy to ensure Rwandans benefit from the integration process.
"We need a situation where say I want to start a clinic in Kampala and I won't meet any bureaucratic challenges. We have many Ugandan architects in Rwanda and I have never seen anybody troubling them," he said.
"If we are to compete favourably on the regional market our government must play significantly the advocacy role among the EAC partner states in terms of removing all the existing barriers," he said.
He added that whereas other experts were exploiting the Rwandan market, it was hard for the local professionals to penetrate regional markets as stipulated in the common market protocol.
In response, Monique Mukaruliza the Minister of EAC, informed participants that the only solution was to establish the professional regulatory bodies that would certify the qualified local specialists as it's done in other member countries.
"We opened the market to all East African citizens meaning we cannot restrict other people from working in Rwanda. However, you must establish regulatory professional bodies to be able to compete on the market," she said.
She, however, said that her ministry was in touch with all Rwandan embassies in regional countries to help by providing information to nationals who wish to work in these states.
Mukaruliza further highlighted that the ministry had plans of engaging each profession to better understand their challenges as well as establishing the best approach to penetrate the regional market.
Article 10 of EAC Common Market Protocol on the free movement of workers stipulates thus; "partner states hereby guarantee the free movement of workers, who are citizens of the other partner states within their territories," meaning that workers are eligible to seek and get employed in any partner state.
Among all the professions, it's only the health and accountancy that have tried to have the links with their regional counterparts and it has elevated their operations in terms of knowledge sharing and skills.
In an exclusive interview, John Munga, the deputy CEO of the Institute of Certified Public Accounts of Rwanda (ICPAR), highlighted that it was still a challenge for the local professionals to compete on the regional market since the majority lacked adequate experience.
He said that the organisation had signed a memorandum of understating with other sister institutions in the region to facilitate local accountants who wish to operate in the partner states.
"Professional training is totally different from academic training...our professionals need further training I know we are still dependent on foreign expertise but time will come when the country will no longer rely on foreigners," he stated.
Vincent Otieno Oluoch, the chairman of the EAC professional services platform, told The New Times that the body was ready to intervene and assist Rwandan professionals both in terms of capacity building and financial support.
The new regional platform aims to bring professional services issues to the forefront of policy agenda of the East African Community.