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Rwandan worries about jobs and foreigners

Flora Kaitesi / mc December 5, 2014

Rwanda is facing an influx of foreign nationals from fellow East African Community countries. Promising long-term benefits, the authorities say it's part of regional integration. But some Rwandans fear for their jobs.

Bildergalerie Ruanda Kontraste
Image: DW/A. Le Touzé

The worry for Rwandans is that regional integration within the East African Community (EAC) can mean tougher competition on the labor market.

"I think it is obvious that other EAC citizens are much more experienced than we are - that's why we are complaining that they are taking our jobs," librarian Winni Umwali told DW.

But Umwali does see a possible solution.

"We cannot keep complaining, but should try and learn from them instead."

She also said there should be a quota on foreigners in each organization and "locals should be given priority."

One area in which other EAC countries and their citizens have acquired more of the experience to which Umwali referred is education.

Ruanda Winnie Umwali
Winnie Umwali believes Rwandans should try and learn from the new arrivalsImage: DW/F. Kaitesi

Violet Muhando is a Kenyan teacher at a Kigali school. It was Rwandan politics that opened doors for her and landed her a job.

"The government in Rwanda had to change from French to English and the transition needed the expertise of English speaking teachers," she told DW.

Muhando said the market for teachers in her own country was saturated.

The goal of a political federation

So if Kenyans are moving to Rwanda, are Rwandans moving to Kenya or other EAC countries? Rwandan national Geoffrey Gahire believes the net flow of labor will continue to be into Rwanda and not the other way round.

"Maybe there is a small number of people that will go to seek jobs outside Rwanda in other EAC countries," he said.

The EAC has five member states - Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Officials say it aims to enhance cooperation in economic, political and social fields to the mutual benefit of those countries. A Customs Union was established in 2005, a Common Market in 2010. Monetary Union is also planned and the ultimate goal is a political federation of the East African states.

Ruanda Violet Muhand
The rise of English, as closer ties were forged within the EAC, helped Violet Muhando to get a jobImage: DW/F. Kaitesi

Rwandan officials have been voicing concern that some of their fellow citizens are not fully informed about the EAC, neither about its past achievements, nor the opportunities it offers for the future.

"People need to understand that in 2010 we became signatories to the Common Market protocol which has helped us to attract investments from the regional countries," Safari Innocent, permanent secretary in Rwanda's ministry of East African community affairs, told DW.

A recent EAC activism week sought to persuade Rwandans that membership of the EAC, with its regional commitments, was now a permanent, useful fixture of national life. What is less clear is whether they will come to regard it as such.