Arusha — The Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) has been directed to finalise the engineering benchmarks that would pave way for cross-border movement of the professionals.
This would also provide a framework to assist the universities in developing or when reviewing the academic programmes and curricular for the region and ensure they are harmonized.
The directive was made here early this week at the end of the meeting of the East African Community (EAC) Sectoral Council on Education, Science and Technology.
IUCEA, a regional institution responsible for higher education, was also tasked to finalize the benchmarks for business related subjects, education, computer science and IT, medicine and agriculture.
The free movement of engineers across the EAC bloc is provided under in Article 11 of the EAC Common Market Protocol which came into force in July 2010.
However, industry sources say there is a low appetite among the highly qualified engineers to cross borders due to tax laws, among other reasons.
There are complaints those hired to work in other countries within the region are treated as 'foreigners' and hence their professional services subjected to a 15 per cent withholding tax.
It is estimated that there are over 20,000 registered and regulated engineers in East Africa. These exclude fresh graduates from the universities and colleges.
Samuel Mulindwa, the permanent secretary in the Rwanda ministry of responsible for Education, Science and Technology confirmed challenges still remain in the free movement of labour in the region.
EAC deputy secretary general Christophe Bazivamo called on the partner states to embrace cross border labour movement through the Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs).
An MRA is an agreement which allows the professional or academic qualifications that an individual has obtained in his/her home country to be recognized abroad.
Such agreements allow individuals and the businesses they own or work in, to provide services in other countries without needing to repeat all the qualifying or authorization steps.
MRAs are widely used to regulate professionals such as architects, engineers, accountants, lawyers, doctors and nurses to work temporarily across the borders and establish themselves.