Prohibitive work permit charges expose a reluctant partner


(Posted 11th December 2013)

Tanzanian diplomats must be very accomplished in misleading their audience across the East African Community because every time they profess to the East African Community’s unity and togetherness they smile but reality is 180 degrees the other way and they know it and are aware of their country’s sectarian behaviour. It is almost as if they are implementing an apartheid like culture in segregating themselves from Kenya and Kenyans. What problem do they have with us I wonder, considering we as a country are the largest single investor country in Tanzania? And their largest trading partner? What do they hope to gain from constantly trying to run rings around all things Kenyan? Our aircraft entering their airspace are treated as foreign, our safari buses cannot go to their parks, they keep the Masai Mara – Serengeti border closed though if it were on the border with Mozambique for sure it would be open. Our nationals who still in this day and age need workpermits are treated the same way like foreigners from Europe or America. What problems do they have with us’ asked a frequent contributor from Tanzania following enquiries made after the receipt of unsettling details on the latest cost rises in work permits for Kenyans and other East African wanting to work and reside in Tanzania.

Another source wrote: ‘‘I only do my business here because I love the country and the people but, like so many freelance workers in Tanzania I can do just as well back home in Kenya which under these circumstances will leave Tanzania short of taxes and fees. Kenyans are generating massive income through sophisticated tourism as well as generating extensive job opportunities for Tanzanians, which the country can ill afford to lose. The newly hyped up residency/work permit fees that classes Kenyans alongside the Western World (whilst Tanzanians work freely in Kenya) goes directly against the new EAC foundation and only increases the deep crack ever present in the union that Tanzanian is causing.

[I attach] a copy confirming B permits have gone up from 650 US Dollars to 2050 US Dollars, i.e. more than threefold. This is across the board for all nationalities, surprisingly including Kenya, East African Community members. A Namanga immigration officer said [to me] [that] Kenyans will be treated and classified the same as British and American nationals. General consensus is the Tanzanian authorities are deliberately trying to cut back the number of Kenyans workings in Tanzania who are filling both professional positions as well as less qualified jobs within the hospitality trade. Speaking fluent English and providing a more productive and committed approach to work has long swayed investors within the tourism to opt for Kenyan or Ugandan staff.

I don’t know whether you even want to touch on this, but the continual and blatant disrespect of the EAC Union by its Tanzanian counterpart only increases the deep crack ever present in the union. Is it worth a story or not Wolfgang?’.

Deep rifts have of late emerged between the so called ‘Coalition of the Willing’, i.e. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda on one side and lead opponent Tanzania and a reluctantly coerced if not outright bullied Burundi on the other hand. A recent EAC Head of State Summit in Kampala sent mixed messages out to the people of the region. The final closing session was in fact delayed by several hours when the 5 heads of state remained locked into further talks and while the three intend to push ahead with infrastructure projects of a truly giant nature, linking the Indian Ocean deep sea port of Mombasa – and the new port of Lamu – with the interior by standard gauge rail, highways and pipelines, they reiterated their invitation to the other two EAC members Burundi and Tanzania to come on board, anytime.

A common tourist Visa will be formally launched on 01st January 2014, again for the three only at present, as Tanzania purportedly is not ready to follow suit, and work and residence permit fees among the three for their citizens wishing to work in any of the other two CoW members, have been waived.

Tanzania’s President Kikwete will be under pressure to make conciliatory gestures when he attends Kenya’s 50th anniversary celebrations of Independence from Britain tomorrow, that is IF he is attending, as there is speculation that he might use his trip to South Africa for the Mandela memorial service as an excuse to delegate his Vice President to attend the party in Nairobi.

Tanzania over the past months, often using the crudest of methods, called outright inhuman by sections of the media, have expelled thousands of Rwandans across the common border, including many who had fully acquired Tanzanian nationality or had lived there for decades, amid reports of looting of the property of those expelled by Tanzanian officials and their collaborators. They have also caused hundreds of Kenya teachers to leave Tanzania who taught in Tanzanian schools, reportedly causing a shortage of good teaching staff already, as the schools could not afford the sharply raised work permit fees.

Lip service is no longer good enough now. Tanzania has time and again introduced unilateral non tariff barriers, like fees for trucks, fees for traders and so forth. They now have to either show that they can uphold the spirit of the EAC and once and for all do away with their discriminatory measures or else call a spade a spade and declare what they are truly up to. We are aware of their SADC talk and thinly veiled threats to leave the EAC for SADC. Let’s end this charade. When or if Kikwete comes to Kasarani tomorrow, let him declare his intentions so that we know where we stand. Ugandans and Rwandans can now work in Kenya unrestricted though they have to register of course and we Kenyans can equally work there. This is good for professionalizing a lot of economic sectors where we can all benefit from. I have always said the EAC has to mean something to the people in the region, give them benefits, and this is a big benefit. And in my own opinion, Burundi is a very reluctant follower of the Tanzania position because they know if the other three would react like with like, they could be in serious economic trouble. I just wait until they find a face saving way to join the three and become a fast forward partner too. I am not saying Tanzania is a fast backward partner but for sure they are as slow as a snail in an age when speed is of essence’ ranted another regular source from Nairobi, who is currently working as an expatriate in Kigali. Tanzania just celebrated 52 years of Tanganyika’s independence from Britain and will soon celebrate 50 years of the union with Zanzibar, which together makes the United Republic of Tanzania, while Kenya celebrates their Golden Jubilee of Independence tomorrow on the 12th of December.

The first East African Community broke up in March of 1977 over sharp differences of the direction of the respective economies between Tanzania and Kenya and the hostile actions by Uganda’s despot Idi Amin at the time, and it is now only just over 10 years that the ‘new’ EAC was formed. Will the mindset of the 1970’s once again destroy the community or will a new spirit prevail which wants to promote economic prosperity for the over 100 million citizens of the region, fast track infrastructure development and turn the region into one fully integrated domestic market without internal boundaries? Time will tell so watch this space.

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