May 11, 2018—The East African Community (EAC) Secretariat has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation (ILO) that among things includes advice on the mobility of workers across regional borders which remains a sensitive issue among member states.
As a Common Market, the six member countries of the EAC, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda have failed to come up with an agreed policy on the free movement of labour against a backdrop of mounting domestic youth unemployment and a reliance on work permits.
EAC Secretary General Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko said in mid-week, the revised MoU provides for the development of a framework for the harmonisation of the EAC Partner States’ policies on social security in line with the ILO Convention on Social Security (Minimum Standards) No. 102 of 1952.
He said, “The MoU further provides for the expansion of micro, small and medium enterprises for employment creation. Also included is the development of an EAC labour migration policy as one of the facilitators of labour mobility in the Community.”
Amb. Mfumukeko said the Community was striving to address youth unemployment as a matter of priority, adding that having well educated but unemployed youth out of work was a time bomb. Partner States were now addressing the issue by encouraging agriculture as an attractive income generating venture for the youth.
He said the EAC Secretariat will convene a joint meeting of the Chiefs of Immigration and Directors of Labour before mid-year to discuss aspects of Entry/Work Permits/Residence Permits and the impact on immigration in the Partner States. Talks will focus on harmonization of these permits.
ILO Country Director Wellington Chibebe said they will work with the EAC to accelerate regional integration and at the same time ensure that the drivers of integration, that is the free movement of labour, goods and services improves livelihoods of the millions of working women and men and their families.
“We welcome the signing of this new Memorandum of Understanding, which will be based firmly on a new DWP for East Africa, addressing strategically prioritized areas agreed upon by the ILO on one side and the EAC and the East African social partner organisations on the other side,” Chibebe said.