Kenya will harmonize its labor laws to allow East Africans get work permits with ease to help spur regional integration, a government official said on Monday.
Barrack Ndegwa, Regional Integration Secretary at the Ministry of East African Community Affairs, said business people, employees and professionals from the East African Community (EAC) Member States are still having challenges to work in Kenya due to high fees charged on work permits and non-enforcement of the new common integration laws.
“We urge Kenya to harmonize laws that are in tandem with the common regional market to enhance free labor movement and investments,” Ndegwa said during the opening of inter-border counties forum on regional integration, harmonization of laws, rules and regulations on cross-border trade in Kisumu, Western Kenya.
However, Kenya is yet to amend its regulations to match the new law passed by the East African Legislative Assembly in Kigali last year, according to Ndegwa.
Under the new law, the East African countries were to allow their citizens to work in any of the region without paying work permits fees. The new law was aimed at promoting free labor movement and investments within the member states.
He said the slow investment growth by foreigners from the East Africa states in Kenya has been blamed on the reluctance of the country to effect changes on the new law that sought to scrap off work permit fees.
Already, Uganda has amended its laws and the foreign nationals from the East African countries are now able to work in the country without paying the work permit.
Whereas Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania are on course of amending their laws, Kenya has not attempted to follow the same procedure.
Ndegwa said that Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania were already working on how to waive work permits fees for the East African citizens.
He said just like the five EAC Member States had agreed to embrace a single Custom where goods imported from one member state is allowed into the other without charging taxes, the work permits by all the member states should be scrapped.
“We need to harmonize these laws with laws of the region to promote integration among the member states,” he said.
Among the worst affected professionals are lawyers who have studied law in Tanzania, for instance, but are not allowed to practice law in Kenya unless they go through the Kenya School of Law.
Currently, a foreign employee pays an approximate of between 1, 500 U.S. dollars and 2,000 dollars work permit fees in a year while a business person will have to part with between 2,500 dollars and 3,000 dollar.
Ndegwa said the management and handling of goods have been harmonist under the single custom union, while permit fees is one of the non-tariff barriers that hinders the full operation of the common market protocol signed to facilitate free movement of labor in the region. Enditem