The Star (Nairobi)

6 June 2014

East Africa: Tanzania, Burundi to Finally Waive Work Permit Fees

EAST African citizens will from 2016 work in any of the member countries without paying for a work permit, EAC secretary general Richard Sezibera has said.

Sezibera said Burundi and Tanzania will join Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda in scrapping the fees by end of this year and next year, respectively.

If that happens, the EAC will be edging closer to realising free movement of labour, a key pillar to the common market protocol whose implementation deadline is next year.

The protocol, effected in July 2010, further provides for free movement of goods, services and capital.

Kenya and Rwanda were the first to waive the charges and were joined by Uganda at the beginning of this year.

The cost for a permit in Tanzania ranges between Sh525 and Sh262,500 ($6 and $3000). In Burundi, it ranges from Sh5250 and Sh7350($60 and $84).

"Work permits has been a big issue for investors but we are now overcoming it," Sezibera told a meeting of German and Kenyan investors in Nairobi on Wednesday. "Burundi has said it will remove the fees by end of this year while Tanzania will do it in the next one year."

Workers however still need to apply for the permits in the country of work, a process still shrouded in government bureaucracies.

East African Business Summit, a forum of select business leaders, in February said the permit approval process sometimes takes over a year in Kenya.

This, they argued, frustrates some investors who could otherwise create more job opportunities for growing population of unemployed youth.

"Any time we deny a sea level investor a work permit, we are losing 100 (new) jobs," chief executive of business consultancy firm KPMG, Josphat Mwaura said on February 25. "Yet we have far too many people living in poverty....and far many people excluded from economic growth."

The countries have however been cautioned to move cautiously towards a common currency before building a strong and affective common market.

Former German President Horst Köhler who is leading a delegation of German traders in a visit of the region said it is impossible to have a common EAC currency without efficient fiscal and economic policies in place.

Köhler's position reflects that of IMF boss Christine Lagarde who during her maiden visit to Kenya in January asked the EAC not to "rush" but learn from the mistakes of others as it seeks a common currency in 2023.

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