Tanzania has defended the move to raise work permit fees saying it is motivated by the need to increase its revenue collection and not to hinder trade.
One of the country’s representative to the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) on Tuesday argued that the country could not exclude East Africans from complying with the new policy because the region is yet to reach the level of integration that does not require residents to have work permits.
“Logically, the new permit fees have to apply to everybody until the East African Community passes measures obliging member states to get rid of the permits,” said Eala member, Mr Abdullah Mwinyi.
Eala is meeting in Nairobi for a workshop on the common market and regional integration.
In a gazette notice dated August 1, the government of Tanzania ordered all foreigners working in the country to replace their work permits under a new regime that charges higher fees.
Stakeholders within the East African Community (EAC) have since condemned the move as frustrating the regional integration process.
The new rules affect all three types of residents permits issued by the Tanzanian government.
Class A permit applicants, the self-employed, will have to part with between $2,000 (Sh168,000) and $3,000 (Sh225,000) up from the previous average of $1,500 (Sh134,400).
Fees for Class B permit applicants, for firms wishing to recruit foreigners to work in Tanzania, have more than doubled from $600 (50,400) to $2,000 (168,000) while class “C” holders are now required to pay between $200 and $500 to be allowed to work in Tanzania.
Tanzania has also introduced permit fees for professionals such as lawyers and accountants.
According to the gazette notice, old permits will be renewed at no additional costs while new applicants will have to adhere to the new rates. Despite this, EAC countries have not been forgiving.
“The spirit of integration means that all countries ought to do their best not to complicate or frustrate this system. The new permit fees are doing just that,” said Rwandan Eala member Christophe Bazivama.
The Common Market protocol was adopted by the five EAC member states in 2010. It is supposed to facilitate the free movement of labour, services, goods and capital within the community.
The protocol forbids discrimination but does not explicitly make a case for favouritism meaning that Tanzania has not broken any laws in introducing new permit rates for EAC and non-EAC countries.
“Tanzania was within its sovereign right to increase its work permit fees but we expect it to create concessions that distinguish East African citizens and their businesses from other foreigners,” Mr Peter Kiguta(pictured), EAC’s director of trade and customs told the Business Daily on Monday.
No IDs in country
The implementation of the protocol has been frustrated by bureaucratic delays and national interests among the partner states. In the past, Tanzania has been on the spot for introducing tariff and non-tariff measures that have made it harder for goods to enter the country.
Only Kenya and Rwanda have scrapped work permit fees for citizens and passports.
Mr Mwinyi attributed Kenya and Rwanda’s early adoption of the common market stipulations to the fact that both states have national identification systems.
“The other three countries don’t have national IDs. We cannot be expected to allow foreigners to freely reign in our countries if we have not identified who our citizens are,” he said.