EAC partner states sabotaging spirit of Common Market

Tuesday October 09 2018

The failure by Tanzania to grant Safaricom’s executive Sylvia Mulinge a work permit that would have allowed her to take up the job of managing director of Vodacom Tanzania has been viewed as drawback to the implementation of the East African Community Common Market Protocol.

The Common Market, which became operational in 2010, was meant to accelerate economic growth in the region by allowing the free movement of goods, persons, labour and capital.

But its implementation has been marred by country-specific hurdles.

Some member states have put in place stringent measures – and fees – that make it difficult for the free movement of both skilled and unskilled labour.

Ms Mulinge required a Class B residence permit to work in Tanzania, but officials said she did not fulfil all the requirements. This case mirrors the frustrations of professionals across the region where national interests favour localisation of jobs, at the expense of the regional protocol.

But Ms Mulinge's case is just one in many in the region. Getting a work permit in either Kenya or Tanzania has been a major protests by East Africans.


Only Rwanda allows East Africans permit-free movement to work in the country.

Kenya and Tanzania, beyond having work permits requirements for other East Africans have had trade wars, blocking the free movement of goods between themselves. A highlight was the recent blocking of Kenyan milk, eggs and chicken and cement by Tanzania.

Years back, Uganda too had blocked its farmers from importing Kenya bull semen used in artificial insemination, beef and other meat products citing fear of disease.

Two years ago, Kenya infamously blocked Tanzanian tour operators from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to pick-up and drop off clients. This was after Tanzania had blocked Kenyan tour drivers from entering their country, and asked them to hand over the guests to Tanzanian operators.

Rwanda too clashed with Tanzania when it blocked the latter's rice from being imported into the country.

With the partner states still resistant to implementing large sections of the Common Market Protocol, professional bodies of accountants, veterinarians, engineers and architects register minimal movement.