Co-operation can avert the collapse of EAC
For those who care about Rock Music, there is a song by ACDC an Australian Rock band titled Highway to Hell and that can used to exactly describe the route world’s second most successful regional integration is headed to. Plenty of stuff that we commoners can’t grasp must be going on but I few East Africans would care what’s going on as along as those involved can terminate the route to hell. There are many important and impressive statistics that the rest of African countries can only envy. The EAC region covers about 136 million people and accounts for more than 15% of the Africa’s container traffic with 90% being handled through the ports of Dar Es Salaam and Mombasa serving East and Central African countries trade. Around 30 percent of the Africa’s trade in oil transits goes through the two ports as well. Tanzania roughly has 80% percent of known gas reserves in the region while Uganda has around 70 per cent percent of proven oil reserves in the region. Those and others are part of the reason why the nations of EAC region came together to revive a dream that came to a juddering halt in 1977 largely because of mistrust among the state members specifically Kenya and Tanzania. Could history be repeating itself? The upcoming head of states meeting in Arusha Tanzania should help alleviate the fears there is an imminent collapse of the most vibrant regional economic bloc in Africa and only second to ASEAN in the whole world. At the upcoming meeting, there is need for the current crop of leaders to focus on uniting this remarkable diversity and common bond of a region and a common commitment to the prosperity and sustainable economic growth of the East African region. As the future economic power increasingly shifts to the eastern part of African following discovery of minerals, oil and gas upholding prosperity and stability across the region is more important than ever.
As I’ve argued before, there is no need to isolate Tanzania and Burundi and what the ‘coalition of willing’ should do is to accommodate the two just like the way a teacher accommodates what we call slow burners in Australia well known slow learners. Upcoming meeting should agree on priority areas for the region starting with tackling trade and investment development, development of infrastructures, maritime safety and security between Kenya and Tanzania, Lake Victoria fisheries management, academic, science and technology cooperation and even the three tripartite countries should make an overture to Tanzania and Burundi to join their joint VISA program, tourism and cultural activities. There is need for the five countries to commit to a range of initiatives to further develop cooperation in each of these priority areas. Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda should together with Tanzania and Burundi employ dialogue and make a genuine contribution to the productive and sustainable development of the East African region. According to facts available, the revival of EAC by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in mid 1990s was mooted because the three countries shared common challenges and that hasn’t changed even after Rwanda and Burundi joined the bandwagon. With the combined population of the five countries the East African region forecast to rise to 200 million by 2030, the challenges that brought together the then Tanzanian president Benjamin William Mkapa, Kenya’s Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni are expected to exacerbate.
I just like other sound mind would want to see the five countries must work hard together to ensure that the people of the East African region have access to the best possible infrastructure, free access to markets, free movement of people among other pledges that they have made to the expectant East Africans. In addition to trade and investments, combatting terrorism in the region will require Tanzania cooperation and in Kenya there are challenges of ensuring maritime security and safety across the East African region and therefore the isolation of Republic of Tanzania in the EAC is a dangerous move and should be reversed at all costs. The governments in the region should focus on eradicating widespread poverty and creating sustainable livelihoods for the millions of East Africans. Creating decent job opportunities around the region as well as sustaining economic growth and food security should also be the region’s primary targets. The leaders must realize that regional cooperation has entered a critical point and any fallout would be catastrophic for the region. There is need for a firm commitment of member states during the upcoming head of states meeting need to demonstrate recognition of Tanzania and Burundi enormous contribution to the growth and development of East African Community and the role the two countries will play in both short and long term strategic and economic roles among the East Africans otherwise the Highway to Hell journey will lead to the demise of East African Community as we know it.