PUBLISHED ON September 19th, 2014

South Sudan not ready for integration

South Sudan’s announcement that foreign workers should leave the country by October 15 to create employment for the locals has elicited mixed reactions, with some observers arguing that the country is not ready for the East African Community integration.

However, South Sudan later made a U-turn, its Foreign minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, telling journalists on Wednesday that there was no government policy ordering foreign workers to leave. A statement from the country’s Labour ministry was quoted in the press on Tuesday directing that jobs filled by foreigners should be prioritised for the locals. The jobs include d executive directors, personnel managers, secretaries, human relations officers, public relations officers, procurement officers, protocol officers, and receptionists.

Geoffrey Ssali, a policy analyst for the Uganda Manufacturers Association, told The Observer that this was uncalled for, given that it came at a time when South Sudan had applied to join the EAC. The region has already ratified the common market protocol that allows free movement of goods and labour in the region.

“It’s embarrassing for the East African region that was planning to admit South Sudan into the integration,” Ssali said. “They might want to help their own [people] get employment, but they still need foreign workers than anyone else. They could wait much longer before they are admitted into the EAC.”

He said some Ugandans had planned to build warehouses, supply and distribution centres there, including becoming agents. In the region, Kenya has more nationals in South Sudan working in banks and insurance firms, while Ugandans are more involved in trade.

In Parliament on Wednesday, MPs questioned why Uganda continued to support the country that sought to expel Ugandans working there. Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi said government had sent a delegation there and would issue a statement on Tuesday next week.

Byron Kinene, the chairman for the Uganda South Sudan Lorry Drivers Association, described the move as unfortunate, even when he said the decision would not affect his members who just deliver goods and come back. Uganda Revenue Authority, which recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the South Sudan’s tax body for border-point partnerships, expressed disappointment with the move.

“Is this a step in the right direction as far as boosting South Sudan’s economy is concerned? Where does this put Uganda’s economic chance in this country?” URA posted on its official Facebook page.

South Sudan is one of Uganda’s biggest markets for foodstuffs and building materials. According to figures from Bank of Uganda, the country earned $240m (Shs 614bn) annually from exports to South Sudanprior to civil conflict there, which started in mid-December last year.

Source URL: The Observer

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