I am greatly honored for this opportunity to share my vision with University Students about the benefits that we stand to gain from a possible East Africa Federation.
We can never cheat ourselves that Africa was ever a united monolith, but one thing I know is that we, the people can deliberately choose to create a united Africa. Unions, Federations, Nations and even families are created by the consent of individuals. At the moment, Africans have a great historical opportunity to mould a united Africa that will prepare the continent to fit into the global economic socio-political environment. This requires a deliberate and conscious effort that will ensure that a united Africa provides more benefits to its members than harm. We have to start small by making our individual nations to operate efficiently. We ought to ensure that we encourage regional cooperation as part of a learning process that will lead to the united Africa. We should own the process of driving Africa to unity. I am quite pleased that Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya are already on the path of integration through the revival of the East African Community (EAC).
The East African Community
In November 30, 1996, Heads of State from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania signed a treaty which revived the EAC. Some important highlights on the developments at the EAC include:-
The East African Community Customs Union commenced operations on 1st January 2005 following the official launching ceremonies that were held simultaneously in Kampala, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on 31st January 2004. Among many of the EAC protocol provisions, there is a highlight of schedules of: Restricted and prohibited imports into the region and Restricted and prohibited Exports from the region.
Under the protocol there would be no tariff for goods exported to Kenya from Tanzania and Uganda. On the other hand, tariffs would be imposed on Kenyan exports to Tanzania or Uganda. The aim of this arrangement is to assist both Tanzania and Uganda to catch up with Kenya which is more industrialized compared with her two partner states within EAC. Tariffs for finished products from outside the region would be reduced progressively to 20 percent in five year's time. Kenya’s Export Processing Zone Authority Chief Executive, Albert Gumo, asserts that the recently launched East African Custom Union had opened a window for relocation of investment to Tanzania and Uganda from Kenya. The threat to relocate rests on the fact that it has become cheaper to produce goods in Uganda and Tanzania for export to Kenya under the EAC customs union terms. Customs union could mean exodus of jobs from Kenya to Uganda and Tanzania
Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have jointly decided to form a common market before 2010 to further their regional political and economic integration. June 2009 is the target date for ratification of the common market protocol by EAC member states, while January 2010 is the target date for the official launch of the common market, according to the timetable. When fully formed, the EAC Common Market will be a regional integration bloc that boasts of a combined population of 90 million people and a total Gross Domestic Product of more than 30 billion U.S. dollars. The Common Market will be pursued from a working Customs Union which also incorporates important elements of advanced integration stages including already working cross-border movement instruments like the East African passport, harmonized macroeconomic policies, convertible currencies and working capital market with cross-listing of stocks among others.
Setbacks to the Common Market
The issue of the trade blocs is one of the most contentious of those that member states have yet to resolve. The EAC partner states are members of opposing trade blocs, with Tanzania being in the Southern African Development Community, while Kenya and Uganda are members of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa. Persons who move across the common borders must have a national identity card or the East African passport. While Kenya and Tanzania have started on the provision of national IDs, efforts to do so in Uganda suffered a setback recently after officials in the Ministry of Finance were accused of influence peddling and favoritism. Other issues on the agenda are harmonization of trade policies in the region and internationalization of the East African passport, whose validity is limited to within East Africa's borders. The legislators will forward the views from these consultations to the EAC Council of Ministers for adoption into a draft Bill.
East Africa Federation
The East African federation slated for 2013 will be realized if the main hindrances to its set up are tackled immediately. The hindrances include: inadequate funding and the need for member states to put aside the issue of sovereignty.
As long as it is presumed that some "forces" are pushing for the integration for their benefit or for the benefit of their country, the federation shall not be realized. The regional organization aims at achieving its goals and objectives through: Promotion of a sustainable growth and equitable development of the region, including rational utilization of the region's natural resources and protection of the environment; Strengthening and consolidation of the longstanding political, economic, social, cultural and traditional ties and associations between the peoples of the region in promoting a people-centered mutual development; Enhancement and strengthening of participation of the private sector and civil society; Mainstreaming of gender in all its programmes and enhancement of the role of women in development; Promotion of good governance, including adherence to the principles of democracy, rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities and gender equality and; Promotion of peace, security and stability within the region and good.
What are the challenges to the East African youth?
We all continue to grow up under the umbrella of our individual nationhood or sovereignty. This poses a big challenge to us in terms of where each one ought to focus their loyalty. Below are some of the challenges the youths face in the quest to have an East African Federation:-
Education: The East African region as a whole has recorded higher literacy levels for both men and women than the average Sub Sahara Literacy levels. Kenya has higher literacy rates of men (90%) and women (78.5%) followed by Tanzania which records 85.2% for men and 69.2% for women. Uganda’s literacy rate for men is at 78.9% and 59.2% for women. The literacy levels in the three countries differ. Uganda emerged from a period of prolonged civil strife; Tanzania is waking up from socialist philosophy and Kenya from a system of ‘President for Life’ ideology. Will a united East Africa offer equal opportunities to all East African youth given this glaring differences in educational exposure? Should East African nations wait up to such a time when all her youth will be fairly on the same literacy levels before integration?
Economic Development: Kenya’s economy is the largest in the region despite the fact that her counterparts in East Africa are recording faster growth in recent years. It is estimated that Kenya’s share of the regional GDP declined from 37% to 33%, while that of Uganda grew from 23% to 32% and Tanzania remained fairly constant at 27%. How will the youth, say from Tanzania, cope with an onslaught of labor force from Kenya and Uganda? Are they going to get Tanzania youth out of business? Is an integrated market going to give Kenyan youth an upper hand over their counterparts in East Africa?
Politics: Tanzania is well ahead of her counterparts in this respect, changing political leadership is entrenched in the Tanzania political system. Will Kenyan and Ugandan youth cope with a system which offers opportunities for change of political leadership regardless of age as witnessed in Tanzania? How does the political climate play out in terms of how leaders are elected is it based on ideas, or the money one has to offer and how will youth in an integrated system cope?
Unity: Are our youth ready to be East Africans?
The Benefits of the Federation to the youth
Politics and Tribalism: In countries where the tribal and ethnic card is played out in terms of accessing jobs and other national favors, a united East Africa Federation will make tribalism irrelevant. East Africa is likely to end up with three major ‘tribes’: Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, hence reducing tribal sentiments that have slowed social cohesion and development. Instead, tribes might be exploited for positive economic benefits such as Kikuyu youth setting up a Kikuyu restaurant in Kampala, and a Buganda restaurant in Dar es Salaam and a Hehe restaurant in Nairobi, all for purposes of promoting authentic African tribal foods
Market: Instead of the youth joining their parents to complain about lack of market for such products as coffee, tea, maize and cotton, they will finally have over 90,000 people to supply 90,000 cups of tea to every morning, as well as several Kilograms of Ugali each day. The point is, East African youth ought to approach an integrated market from the perspective of exploiting the economic opportunities offered instead of relying on the traditional model where the government was supposed to provide everything.
History: East African youth have a historical moment to participate in the shaping of the new African civilization, because ‘not everything has been invented yet.’
East African youth must be agitated against the present economic and political system that seems keen to focus on short term interests. We must be ready to treat obstacles to integration as challenges that ought to be overcome. Each problem afflicting people in East Africa, ranging from poverty, disease, illiteracy, political strife presents an opportunity for each youth to offer a solution thereby bringing gain to an individual as well as society. Let us all soberly seek to facilitate a well thought out Eastern African integration as a step towards African Unity.
Speech by James Shikwati, Director Inter Region Economic Network, at the DIRA talks in Dar es Salaam-Tanzania (14/06/06). The event was organized by Tanzania Youth Vision Association in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation and focused on The Role of Youth in the EAC Federation Process.
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