EAC greener pasture countries for highly skilled Kenyans
Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are the key destinations for high-skilled Kenyan migrants, attracted by opportunities in financial, IT, engineering and hospitality sectors, a new UN report showed.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said labour shortages in information technology, engineering, finance, hospitality and management in some regional markets in Eastern Africa have fuelled migration of professionals from the region, some of them young.
“Rwanda is a major destination for migrants from Kenya and Uganda and has attracted highly skilled professionals. Its burgeoning information technology sector has driven labour mobility among young highly skilled migrants from Kenya, who have taken advantage of economic opportunities in the sector, and demand in financial services and other skill-intensive sectors in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania has also fuelled mobility among professionals from Kenya,” the agency said.
Mutual recognition agreements between various professional bodies within the East African Community (EAC) allow for cross-border practices among professionals and accord experts from partner States in accounting, architecture, dentistry, medicine and engineering to the same treatment as nationals.
“Such agreements, along with the abolition of work permits by some EAC partner States, have been vital in facilitating labour mobility among highly skilled professionals within the region. Regional investment in economic sectors, besides creating labour demand in specific sectors, has also become an important driver of intraregional economic migration,” UNCTAD noted.
Highly skilled migrants tend to earn relatively high incomes in destinations.
“For example, skilled Nigerian migrants in Ghana and South Africa have household incomes that exceed the average professional household income in the two countries. Similarly, young professionals from Kenya in Rwanda, South Africa and the United Republic ofTanzania earn incomes that are relatively high by African standards,” UNCTAD said in its report released end of May.
Demand for services and trade has also fuelled migration from Uganda to EAC partner States, in particular, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, and from Kenya to Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.
The EAC protocol on the common market, with regard to the free movement of persons, along with the abolition of work permits by some EAC partner States, has facilitated mobility within the bloc.
In Eastern Africa, services have become an important driver, particularly of semi-skilled migration. Semi-skilled migrants from Uganda, for example, have accessed labour markets in Rwanda and Tanzania and fuelled migration to South Africa and the Sudan.
“Demand in trades has been a significant driver of intraregional semi-skilled migration. For example, the temporary resident permit of Rwanda for semiskilled workers enables such workers from countries in Eastern Africa to take advantage of opportunities in labour markets, including in small and medium-sized enterprises in Rwanda, and to find employment as motor vehicle mechanics, restaurant workers and beauty salon attendants,” UNCTAD noted.
The low-skilled workers haven’t been left out of the migration.
The UN observed that in Eastern Africa, demand for domestic services and retail in the Middle East has become a significant driver of women’s migration from Kenya and Uganda
“Unlike other low-skilled migrants who tend to have low levels of education, women migrants from Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda to the Middle East are often better educated. This trend is reflected in informal trade in EAC, which is increasingly absorbing young, relatively well-educated persons, including some with professional qualifications, reflecting a lack of economic opportunities in origin countries,” it said.
The UN report showed that Eastern Africa is the most diversified region with regard to the origin of international migrants from Africa, as it receives significant share of migrants from all other regions, except Western Africa.
“In addition to economic factors driving migration to diversified economies such as Kenya and Rwanda, the latter’s visa for foreign workers may attract migrants to the region. In 2000-2017, conflict and political instability were a driver of forced migration from Middle Africa to the United Republic of Tanzania and from Northern Africa, mainly the Sudan, to Uganda.”
Besides providing jobs and other economic opportunities, intraregional migration has contributed to economic growth in countries, while boosting regional development.
The policy of Rwanda to attract investment from EAC partner States, which led to significant investments by Kenya in its financial services sector, has served as a catalyst for labour mobility from Eastern Africa, increasing increased its labour supply in sectors with shortage while contributing to the development of education, engineering, finance, hospitality and financial services through skills exchange.