East African Business Week, September 07, 2010
Ease labour movement in EAC market
Business Daily Africa, August 19, 2010
By Fredrick Njehu
The East African Community common market has been received with much enthusiasm locally and internationally.
Basically, the four freedoms granted (labour, capital, goods and services) have been regarded as pivotal to economic, social and ultimate political integration of the East African region.
In the minds of East Africans, we are likely to see increased cross-border trade in sectors where each partner state has a comparative edge.
Labour movement is likely to be the major market access tool in the era of the common market.
The reason for picking labour services is obviously due to the fact that, previously under the customs union, trade in goods was given preference in the regional trade and investments.
Interestingly, there might arise both job destruction and creation in the EAC common market that could illustrate how different EAC countries characteristics, including labour market policies, can affect temporary or permanent employment at sectoral or country level.
First, this will be driven by visa requirements which are critical if manpower is to move swiftly across the EAC borders.
World Development Report 2009 shows that Uganda has the best case in the EAC as it does not require any visas from any visitors, followed by Kenya which requires a visa by visitors from 21 countries, and Tanzania at 35.
The few visa requirements by the EAC countries imply open competition for the labour market.
In efforts to facilitate cross-border movement of people, the EAC could design labour migration regimes aimed at increasing mobility of labour within EAC.
Currently, the EAC member states lack a common migration policy or a migrant labour regime that can guide movement of people within the region.
It is expected that the common market will solve the existing challenges in order to ensure smooth movement of people within the EAC region by establishing a legal framework for the free movement of goods; persons; labour; services; capital; right of establishment; and right of residence.
The common market migration and labour policy therefore should be used as a tool to ensure labour productivity in the EAC.
This law if enacted should also be based on international benchmarks stipulated by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention, which covers key aspects of occupational safety and health, against forced labour, and on discrimination provide minimum international norms for national legislation by upholding minimal decent work conditions.
The writer is a researcher at CUTS Africa Resource Centre.
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