Structural issues EAC need to address

October 6, 2015

As I have learned in management, a deep and vertical organisational set up with no horizontal connecting lines results in sub-optimal performance.In East African Community, the full plate of meetings often assumes greater significance than the half empty glass of actual achievement. Or the problems that need structural solutions to begin to fill that glass.Already, severe and serious domestic political problems engulfing the member states have consumed attention better extended to regional matters. A good example is sugar importation that Kenya government signed with Uganda recently that opposition politicians vehemently opposed.It becomes critical, therefore, for Kenya to lead a charge in forming a meaningful EAC agenda. For example the ministers involved in the meeting and decision-making process do not seem to talk sufficiently to one another,not even in their jurisdictions.The foreign and trade ministries which carry this convergence responsibility are either not sufficiently equipped or do not have the time to do so.There should be a special high level body with capable representation from each EAC country to integrate decisions to move forward.From actual knowledge,no doubt there is a disconnect between what economic ministers and finance ministers do and decide which does not promote achievable progress for the region with more than 140 million people.

Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania in a photo I took in 2013 near Maili sita area in Moshi which is slightly over one drive from Arusha, EAC headquarters
Mount Kilimanjaro in a photo I took near Maili sita area in Moshi, slightly over one hour drive from Arusha, EAC headquarters

There are hundreds of committees, working groups, task forces, special task forces, study groups etc which take up plenty of travel and meeting time for the Arusha based organisation. While they may be the stuff of the life of EAC officials, the private sector and non-governmental bodies have other things to do as well. Their dialogues and engagement with officials, ministers and leaders become disparate and unrelated to the decision-making process.To be meaningful, there must be a careful review of where such involvements should be located to make a difference to the speed and quality of decision-making. There has to be a required level of organisation and commitment. Given that involvement of members, particularly with business sector bodies, is not full time, the secretariat in Arusha have to be strong, professional and well-funded. Having said this, there is no substitute for committed members of the bodies they represent. They are there not to have pictures taken with leaders to adorn their offices. They have a responsibility which calls for performance. It would be good to measure organisational performance at the EAC and individual performance at the national levels.

Of course other proposals for EAC are important, such as enhancing the Arusha based secretariat, addressing sustainable development and decent work principles, but the progress towards attaining set goals will take even longer than they already would if the structure of the work process is not improved.And of course the plethora of meetings and summits will continue to renew EAC commitment and to address contemporary issues or even to ensure EAC centrality if only by playing host to heavyweight states like the EU, US, China and Japan but they cannot be a substitute for better thought out and organised work.At the same time, specific rather then generalised targets should be prioritised.In terms of regional security and stability, perhaps the hardest bit because EAC is a minnow in the company of the terrorism threats, a more united EAC stand on some of the issues would make it look better and more central. There has to be organised work outside of set piece meetings and grand occasions to prepare thoroughly the ground for a common EAC position.In nutshell, EAC when pronouncing that it is a community, must also ensure it will up its game in community-building and no doubt it should be accompanied by the assertion that only a milestone has been reached, that community-building is an ongoing process.

Contador Harrison