By Luke Anami in Arusha
The East Africa Community Secretariat wants legislative barriers that prohibit free movement of workers eliminated to stimulate economic growth.
Richard Sezibera, the EAC Secretary General, said while Rwanda and Kenya have removed work permits, other EAC partner states were yet to do so thereby limiting free movement of labour as provided for in the EAC Common Market Protocol of July last year.
‘There is a tendency for some EAC countries to push for internal laws and regulations to counter free movement of labour and other factors of production. This will not stimulate our economic growth but only retard them," Dr Sezibera said during the signing of an MoU between Trade Mark East Africa and East African Business Council held on Monday in Arusha. He reckons that removal of such barriers would help transform the region into a middle level economy by 2030.
"To do so, we need to open our borders to allow for free movement of labour," Dr Sezibera said.
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He said cross-border business is still a problem and called for removal of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB) that prohibit cross-border trade.
"The changed laws allow people moving across borders within the EAC be granted at least six months stay and yet some countries still restrict it to the old three-month system," he explained.
He said the EAC has formed an NTB committee both at regional and country level, with a schedule to eliminate trade barriers.
"Cross-border trade is still a challenge. But we have some hope, as the road between Arusha in Tanzania and Athi River in Kenya is almost complete. We are in the process of opening one border stop at Namanga, Busia, and Taita Taveta," he said.
Frank Matseart, Chief Executive Officer Trade Mark East Africa said adoption of best trade practices could help push up the region’s production and improve on investment climate.
"The EAC integration should not be about protectionism but a route through which each partner state can grow its economy," said Matseart.
The MoU signing involved a $800,000 grant and a $1 million facility to build EABC’s institutional and advocacy capacities so as to enable it represent the private sector more effectively.
The chairperson of the EABC Ms Consolata Ndayishimiye, accompanied by Agatha Nderitu, EABC’s Executive Director signed the grant on behalf of the Private sector at a ceremony held on Monday at Mt Meru hotel in Arusha, Tanzania.