A July 2020 East African Community job advertisement for 41 vacancies attracted more than 10,000 applications, reflecting the unemployment crisis in the region.
According to data on unemployment in the region, more than 80 percent of young people in East Africa are jobless.
This is why one of the items on the agenda of the February 27 East African Community Heads of State Summit will be the state of unemployment in the region.
The Council of Ministers will meet on February 22, ahead of the summit, to discuss staff recruitment for various EAC agencies.
The 41 vacancies announced by the office of the Secretary-General, ranged from director level, principal officers, IT specialists, human resource, accountants to research assistants, in the East African Court of Justice, East African Legislative Assembly and the East African Lake Victoria Basin.
An attempt to recruit staff last year was dogged by controversy and halted.
"The matter is now part of the discussion during the next Council of Ministers meeting," said Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda's Minister of State for the EAC Affairs and chairperson of the Council of Ministers.
In its 41st Extraordinary meeting held virtually in Arusha on August 4, 2020, the council directed the Secretariat to prepare a budget and appoint an ad hoc committee to recruit as the applications have to be sorted by positions and citizenship.
The outgoing Secretary-General Liberat Mfumukeko is opposed to the idea of an ad hoc committee, but the Council of Ministers insists it will determine the process and hand over a report to the Heads of State during the February 27, summit meeting.
"When we meet on February 22, we are going to set up an ad hoc committee and it will short-list those who have qualified and then give us feedback on which way to go," said Prof Nshuti.
While the majority of the applicants were from Kenya, the EAC applies a quota system, which gives each partner state an equal number of vacancies.
"Take South Sudan for example, it may not be able to provide staff in some of the areas and that is why we need to take a human resource audit within the region," said Prof Nshuti.
East African Community has a population of 150 million people and Kenya leads with the highest unemployment rate.
Records show that one in every five Kenyans is unemployed, compared with Tanzania where it is one in every 20.
According to the September 2020 quarterly labour report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the country's unemployment rate now stands at 10.4 percent from 5.2 per cent in March.
"In Kenya there is an oversupply in the labour market. It is manifesting in responses to adverts to some jobs such as IT, accounts and human resource," said Jacob Onkunya, a management and a human resource expert in Kenya.
"This presents a big challenge on the EAC Common Market protocol on free movement of persons and labour," said Prof Nshuti.
"I don't think we have efficient free movement of labour. I know Kenya exports human resources to other countries, I think the problem we have is not so much unemployment but we lack information on what jobs are available in the region," he added.
This story was first published in The EastAfrican print version on February 20.