Regionalism and the movement of labour in the east African community
Regional integration took centre stage in the second half of the twentieth century making the world much more integrated. Integration in Africa is basic for the continent’s competitiveness as it offers a mechanism for diversifying international competitiveness. Towards this end, free movement of labour was identified as a key obligation of the East African Community (EAC) as the region endeavours to achieve its vision of deepening and widening integration for the mutual benefit of all East Africans. Regionalism in East Africa has been faced with a number of challenges arising from policy and structural factors, low level of awareness on the provisions of the common market among the citizenry of the region, restriction imposed by partner states and lack of comprehensive information on the labour market in the respective partner states, factors that have hampered the free movement of labour. This study employed qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis and was to establish the extent to which the EAC common market has enhanced the free movement of labour within the region, how policy and structural factors has impacted on movement of labour and suitable methods of sharing labour market information. The study sought to contribute to the existing body of knowledge on the dynamics of regionalism and labour mobility and provide vital information for use by policy makers, workers, employers and the general populace in the East African Community. The study revealed that in spite of the EAC common market having been in existence for the last four years, there is no tangible evidence that the region in general and the partner states in particular have reaped the benefits of the free movement of labour. The fact that the protocol only permits the free movement of highly skilled workers and the slow pace of harmonizing the labour laws, challenges of portability of social security benefits as well as the often prohibitive work permit fees charged by some partner states act as limitations to the realization of the free movement of labour. The situation tends to be worsened by low levels of awareness on the requirements and benefits of the EAC common market protocol and the absence of labour market information systems to facilitate the sharing of information on the labour market which is itself key to the free movement of labour. The study recommends fast-tracking of the review of labour laws, completion of the EAC manpower survey and raising the level of awareness of the general populate on the benefits of the EAC integration in efforts to increase the movement of labour and achievement of the aspirations of the common market.