VOLA: The Benefits of Integration: A Case of East African Community ~ Alex Ndungu

VOLA: The Benefits of Integration: A Case of East African Community ~ Alex Ndungu

 

The East Africa Community is the logical step forward for its member states and is probably the best thing that has happened to the region since the independence of the individual member states from colonialism. When the three original partner states; Kenya, Uganda and the Tanzania signed the treaty that brought forth the East African Community on 30th November 1999 and its subsequent coming to force on 7th July 2000, they brought into being an entity that was both; novel and a requisite of the times. The formation of the East African Community was a prudent decision, informed both by history and reason. For as evidence suggests, integration amongst the peoples and communities within the boarders of Eastern Africa Community predated pre-colonial history.

A peep through history shows us that the East African Community has been one region, after all the indigenous populace within the EAC share common ancestral history. History also shows that there was a fluidity and seamlessness that characterized movement of goods and people within the EAC region especially before the advent of colonialism, well apart from wild game and terrain there was nothing form of state or state infrastructure that specifically prohibited people and goods from moving around, trading or any other form of interaction for that, matter. It was the partition of Africa into formalized states that put artificial strains to the natural order of free movement in Africa and the Eastern Africa region for that matter. It was this free movement of goods and people that attracted the; the Chinese, the Arabs and later the Europeans to the East African coast, knowing too well that they could access goods sourced from the rich East African hinterland with relative ease.

The EAC has tried to re-establish that free movement of people and goods.  That unbridled exchange of goods and movement of goods was an anchor of pre-colonial society in the Eastern African region which had a developed market systems well before the colonialists came. Increased intra-regional trade has been beneficial in lowering the rate of inflation as the cost of key consumables especially food has come down substantially. This in effect means that we might have within ourselves the solutions to perennial and potentially debilitating problems like, famine for Kenya especially taking into consideration that Kenya’s neighbor Uganda is not as food poor as herself.

I say the EAC is a necessity of the times now more than ever because the global economic climate teeters on uncertainty and near almost collapse as was the case in 2008 global economic meltdown. The EAC provides an adequate regional market that somewhat makes the countries in the block insular to global economic shocks yet allows them to sensibly enjoy the fruits of globalization. Indeed the benign lesson from the global financial meltdown for the developing world and particularly Africa for that matter is that Africa cannot continue relying on Western economies and western consumers as sole target markets for Africa. As such the EAC is timely in that it provides a large regional market, giving producers in the region multiple choices.

The EAC also provides an opportunity for the countries to deal with common problems like security. The region deals with shared threats, Burundi and Uganda has contributed to Amisom Peace Keeping force in Somalia. This in their quest to exterminate the Al-shabab terrorism threat, which although poses a threat to regional stability poses more threat to Kenya than any other country within the region. The EAC has been involved in strengthening the governments of neighboring fragile countries and institutions and of neighboring countries in an effort of to improve the security situations in these countries and generally prevent the insecurity from spilling over into the region.

Though at times the ultimate goal of the EAC integration through the various chronological stages of integration is; formation of a political federation has received much salient attention in the past, other benign advantages of the integration have not received as much attention. Although the countries within the EAC are culturally homogenous, the advent of a new identity, identifying oneself as an; ‘East African’ might help push the issues such as ethnicity to the periphery. A new identity for the citizens within the EAC community is desirable; it could heal the fissures of ethnicity that have in past bogged down our development to the pinnacle of economic and human development.

The EAC also gives the country members a platform for collective bargaining; it allows the member countries to have the wherewithal to extract more from multi-lateral negotiations and trade agreements. As President Yoweri Museveni once said, “the balkanization of Africa into 53, mostly sub-optimal states, has meant that Africa cannot have a large market under one Political Authority; have no power to negotiate with the rest of the world, this balkanization must stop,”

The EAC has also ushered in a new age of seamless travel of goods and people within the region. This coupled with myriads of other measures taken to ensure that non-tariff barriers to trade are reduced to the bare minimum means that goods and services will become less expensive, not to mention the development of physical infrastructure that has accompanied the integration process. The EAC will also help to eliminate issues such as corruption. Since corruption in any of these countries tends to increase the cost of doing business,  individual member states, citizens and other non-state entities will and have already started clamouring for transparency and a zero tolerance towards corruption especially on the transits within the region. Good and efficient and thrifty governance within the region might also get realised as countries within the region need to subscribe to a higher governance culture. This in essence means that citizens within these countries should expect better service delivery from their government and other core institutions within the regions.

The East African Community provides a unique opportunity for the countries within the region to approach the future with a sure footing. The countries within the region can enjoy the benefits of globalization with the comfortable auspice of the East African Community that hedges them from unfavourable global market environments. It is also my sincere hope that overtures will be made to rope in new members like the new nation of South Sudan into the community, for the reason of enlargement and diversification of the market. This essay highlights just but a few of the innumerable benefits of the East African Community, which have already been realized or will be realized as we move into a bright and hopeful future. Besides, integration provides that desirable supra-national statelessness that could be important in unlocking Africa’s potential.

 

Alex is a columnist on the Voice of Liberty Africa projectThe East Africa Community is the logical step forward for its member states and is probably the best thing that has happened to the region since the independence of the individual member states from colonialism. When the three original partner states; Kenya, Uganda and the Tanzania signed the treaty that brought forth the East African Community on 30th November 1999 and its subsequent coming to force on 7th July 2000, they brought into being an entity that was both; novel and a requisite of the times. The formation of the East African Community was a prudent decision, informed both by history and reason. For as evidence suggests, integration amongst the peoples and communities within the boarders of Eastern Africa Community predated pre-colonial history.

A peep through history shows us that the East African Community has been one region, after all the indigenous populace within the EAC share common ancestral history. History also shows that there was a fluidity and seamlessness that characterized movement of goods and people within the EAC region especially before the advent of colonialism, well apart from wild game and terrain there was nothing form of state or state infrastructure that specifically prohibited people and goods from moving around, trading or any other form of interaction for that, matter. It was the partition of Africa into formalized states that put artificial strains to the natural order of free movement in Africa and the Eastern Africa region for that matter. It was this free movement of goods and people that attracted the; the Chinese, the Arabs and later the Europeans to the East African coast, knowing too well that they could access goods sourced from the rich East African hinterland with relative ease.

The EAC has tried to re-establish that free movement of people and goods.  That unbridled exchange of goods and movement of goods was an anchor of pre-colonial society in the Eastern African region which had a developed market systems well before the colonialists came. Increased intra-regional trade has been beneficial in lowering the rate of inflation as the cost of key consumables especially food has come down substantially. This in effect means that we might have within ourselves the solutions to perennial and potentially debilitating problems like, famine for Kenya especially taking into consideration that Kenya’s neighbor Uganda is not as food poor as herself.

I say the EAC is a necessity of the times now more than ever because the global economic climate teeters on uncertainty and near almost collapse as was the case in 2008 global economic meltdown. The EAC provides an adequate regional market that somewhat makes the countries in the block insular to global economic shocks yet allows them to sensibly enjoy the fruits of globalization. Indeed the benign lesson from the global financial meltdown for the developing world and particularly Africa for that matter is that Africa cannot continue relying on Western economies and western consumers as sole target markets for Africa. As such the EAC is timely in that it provides a large regional market, giving producers in the region multiple choices.

The EAC also provides an opportunity for the countries to deal with common problems like security. The region deals with shared threats, Burundi and Uganda has contributed to Amisom Peace Keeping force in Somalia. This in their quest to exterminate the Al-shabab terrorism threat, which although poses a threat to regional stability poses more threat to Kenya than any other country within the region. The EAC has been involved in strengthening the governments of neighboring fragile countries and institutions and of neighboring countries in an effort of to improve the security situations in these countries and generally prevent the insecurity from spilling over into the region.

Though at times the ultimate goal of the EAC integration through the various chronological stages of integration is; formation of a political federation has received much salient attention in the past, other benign advantages of the integration have not received as much attention. Although the countries within the EAC are culturally homogenous, the advent of a new identity, identifying oneself as an; ‘East African’ might help push the issues such as ethnicity to the periphery. A new identity for the citizens within the EAC community is desirable; it could heal the fissures of ethnicity that have in past bogged down our development to the pinnacle of economic and human development.

The EAC also gives the country members a platform for collective bargaining; it allows the member countries to have the wherewithal to extract more from multi-lateral negotiations and trade agreements. As President Yoweri Museveni once said, “the balkanization of Africa into 53, mostly sub-optimal states, has meant that Africa cannot have a large market under one Political Authority; have no power to negotiate with the rest of the world, this balkanization must stop,”

The EAC has also ushered in a new age of seamless travel of goods and people within the region. This coupled with myriads of other measures taken to ensure that non-tariff barriers to trade are reduced to the bare minimum means that goods and services will become less expensive, not to mention the development of physical infrastructure that has accompanied the integration process. The EAC will also help to eliminate issues such as corruption. Since corruption in any of these countries tends to increase the cost of doing business,  individual member states, citizens and other non-state entities will and have already started clamouring for transparency and a zero tolerance towards corruption especially on the transits within the region. Good and efficient and thrifty governance within the region might also get realised as countries within the region need to subscribe to a higher governance culture. This in essence means that citizens within these countries should expect better service delivery from their government and other core institutions within the regions.

The East African Community provides a unique opportunity for the countries within the region to approach the future with a sure footing. The countries within the region can enjoy the benefits of globalization with the comfortable auspice of the East African Community that hedges them from unfavourable global market environments. It is also my sincere hope that overtures will be made to rope in new members like the new nation of South Sudan into the community, for the reason of enlargement and diversification of the market. This essay highlights just but a few of the innumerable benefits of the East African Community, which have already been realized or will be realized as we move into a bright and hopeful future. Besides, integration provides that desirable supra-national statelessness that could be important in unlocking Africa’s potential.

 

Alex is a columnist on the Voice of Liberty Africa project

Recent Posts

23.07.14 -
  On the 9th of July 2014, an op-ed was published...
23.07.14 -
  The 2014 Economic Report on Africa (the 2014...