The East African community commonly refers to the three East African states namely Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, within the recent past it has been used to refer to Rwanda and Burundi which are pushing forward to join the block and be it’s forth and Fifth member states. Sometimes the term is used to refer to a wider geographical region covering even the wider Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. The region (EA) boast of a huge population of around 100 million people currently, like the rest of sub-Saharan Africa , east Africa is faced with problems including the cases of HIV Aids, famine, draught and poor levels of industrialization. The current leaders of the three states are Mwai Kibaki, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania
The three east African countries share a rich history, all the three of them like most African countries were once under colonial rule, before the second world war Kenya and Uganda were under British rule while Tanzania was under German rule, after the defeat of Germany in the second world war Tanzania also came under British rule.
After years of colonization within the three states resistant movements against the colonial government emerged leading to independence, Tanzania was the first to gain independence in 1960 followed by Uganda in 1962 and then Kenya in 1963.
Soon after their independence the three states were effectively on course to forming the first federation in Africa. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda have had a history of co-operation dating back to the early 20th century, including the Customs Union between Kenya and Uganda in 1917, which the then Tanganyika joined in 1927, the East African High Commission (1948-1961), the East African Common Services Organization (1961-1967), The East Africa Railways, a united airline and the East African Community (1967-1977)
The first federation in east Africa federation collapsed within a short period since by 1977 the federation was already dead. One of the principles factors that led to the collapse was the cold war period; all the three countries followed differently ideological perspectives.
Kenya under its first president (Jomo Kenyatta) was more capitalist oriented guided by its sessional paper no:10 of 1965, ( on African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya, ) Tanzania on its part under its first president (Mwalimu Julius Nyerere) was more socialistic guided by the Arusha declaration of 1967 that advocated for Ujamaa (communalism) Uganda ion the other hand was more Marxist under its president (Idi Amin Dada) with his principle that he called the common man charter. Cross border accusations of sabotage and media conflicts also played a part in bringing down the federation. Besides these there were other technical factors that led to its collapse including;
- Lack of a well defined constitution.
- Lack of institutional capacity building.
- Similarity of export goods leading to below par trade among the member states.
- Leadership problems between the heads of states especially between Nyerere and Idi Amin (This later led to war between Tanzania and Uganda).
The efforts towards the creation of a political union
The efforts towards the creation of a second political union of east Africa have already taken root. These efforts include the fact that presently all the three countries (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) have already embarked on a process of carrying out nation wide referendums to give the people a chance to vote on whether they need the political union or not. This process will go on into the near future in order to make the process as democratic and as representative as possible. Some achievements already achieved include:
(1) The fact that the community has already introduced the East African legislative assembly (EALA). The members of parliament in the east African assembly are appointed by the respective countries parliaments and finally approved by the respective heads of states (presidents) The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) is the legislative arm of the Community. The EALA has 27 members. The EALA has oversight functions on all matters that fall within the Community’s work and its functions include debating and approving the budget of the Community, discussing all matters pertaining to the Community and making recommendations to the Council as it may deem necessary for the implementation of the Treaty, liaising with National Assemblies on matters pertaining to the Community and establishing committees for such purposes as it deems necessary. Since being inaugurated in 2001, the EALA has had several sittings as a plenum in Arusha, Kampala and Nairobi. Regardless of this development the appointment of the members does not come without especially in Kenya where some legislators claim that the appointment process is not done with reference to the doctrines setup to guide the appointment process.
(2) The federation has already introduced a rotary system whereby the three heads of states take charge at the helm of the federation. The leader at the helm at any one time becomes the chair of presidential and ministerial meetings between the member states. In addition to this the community has ratified the main organs of the EAC which are: the Summit of Heads of State and or Government; Council of Ministers; Co-ordination Committee; Sectoral Committees; East African Court of Justice, East African Legislative Assembly; and the Secretariat.
Establishment of the community’s judicial court system:
East African Court of Justice
The East African Court of Justice is the judicial arm of the Community. The members of the east African court of justice just like their legislative counterparts are elected from their respective countries. However the question of their security of tenure has come under scrutiny especially after Kenya suspended two of its members accusing them of being involved in corrupt practices back home. The court has original jurisdiction over the interpretation and application of the 1999 Treaty that re-established the EAC. The east African court of justice in the future may have other original, appellate, human rights or other jurisdiction upon conclusion of a protocol to realise such extended jurisdiction. It is temporarily based in Arusha, Tanzania.
The road towards the attainment of a Common education system:
Currently the community has not yet introduced a common education system. Regardless of this fact the education systems within the three member states are not that very different since they adopted the almost the same modes of education systems from the British colonial government. In addition to this there is a very huge population of cross border students between the three member states. The most significant is that of Kenyan students in Uganda. Most of these students go into Uganda to seek higher education after failing to attain the cut off points to enter Kenyan public universities which have become very competitive for government sponsored students and very expensive for self sponsored students commonly referred to as parallel or module 2 in some cases.
The new treaty may be fast tracked, with plans drawn up in 2004 to introduce a monetary union with a common currency, the East African shilling, by 2009. The shilling was the currency issued for use in Kenya, British Somaliland, Italian Somaliland, Tanzania, Uganda and parts of Yemen during the time these areas were British colonies and protectorates. The east African shilling ceased to be in use as each member introduced its own local currency on achievement of independence from Britain. It is also the proposed name for a common currency that the East African Community plans to introduce by the end of 2009. There are also plans for the introduction of a common market for the East African Community. However, some experts like those based out of the Kenyan public think tank Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), have noted that the plans are too ambitious to be met by 2010 because a number of political, social and economic challenges are yet to be addressed. These issues include the amount of taxes to be levied for locally produced goods from one member state to another, the common external tariff to be levied, as well as the amount each member state will contribute into the federations’ budget. Borrowing a leaf from the European Union there is a potential possibility of a common currency being delayed due to the differences in the monetary values of the currencies of the member states. The Kenyan currency is stronger than both the Ugandan shilling and the Tanzanian shilling. Currently the Kenyan shilling is exchanging at around Sh18 to the Tanzanian shilling and Sh25 to the Ugandan shilling.
Introduction of free trade:
The issue of free and fair trade is one of the most contentious issues in international trade. It is the same issue that led to the collapse of the Doha round of WTO talks. Within the east African community it is bound to be even more intense since the three member states are primarily agricultural based. Removing tariffs would lead to the dominance of one state over the others (most likely Kenya). This is what prompted the drafters of the constitution to impose duty on Kenyan goods entering the Ugandan and Tanzanian markets. Under the terms of the treaty, Kenya, the richest of the three countries, will pay duty on its goods entering Uganda and Tanzania until 2010 based on a declining scale. A common system of tariffs will apply to other countries supplying the three countries with goods.
Funding of the annual budget:
The core budget of the EAC’s Secretariat is funded by equal contributions from the Partner States. Regional projects and programmes are funded through the mobilisation of resources from both within and outside the region.
The East African region covers an area of 1.8 million square kilometers with a combined population of about 100 million and has vast natural resources including minerals, forests and farmlands. The three countries are relatively prosperous compared to their war-torn neighbors such as Congo Somalia and southern Sudan. They also share a common language (Swahili) although English is still widely spoken among the member states.
There are many benefits to be derived from a community that shares so much in common. Among these benefits include (a) A wider market for goods produced within the region. This wide market gives room for more business and employment opportunities. This gives room for increased productivity and specialization on different lines of production. (b) Due to the presence of this homogenous big market the community will be able to attract more Foreign Direct Investments as investors will be lured into the federation by the prospects of reaping in huge profits from their investment endeavors. (c) Due to increased competition and emergence of economies of scale the regions citizens will benefit from cheaper and better quality goods and services. (d) Increased tourism. Since the community is in the process of introducing a Single Tourist Visa, if approved the visa will be valid for all three current member states of the EAC (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). When approved, the Visa will be applicable in all the three regional member states. This will increase tourism earnings greatly since many parts of East Africa are worldwide renowned for their concentrations of wild animals, such as the « big five » of elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and rhinoceros, though populations have been declining recently due to climatic changes, poaching a human encroachment and increased stress, especially in relation to the rhino and elephant the region is still one of the best tourist destinations in the world.
The geography of East Africa is often stunning and scenic. Shaped by global plate tectonic forces that have created the Great Rift Valley, East Africa is the site of Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, the two tallest peaks in Africa. It also includes the world’s second largest freshwater lake (Lake Victoria), and the world’s second deepest lake (Lake Tanganyika).
The unique geography and apparent suitability for farming made East Africa a target for European exploration, exploitation and colonization in the nineteenth century. Today, tourism is an important part of the economies of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is a major foreign exchange earner for the three countries. (e) A common travel passport. East African Passport
The East African passport was officially launched on 1 April 1999. The East African passport has been introduced as a travel document to ease border crossing for East Africans. It is valid for travel within the EAC countries only and will entitle the holder to a multi entry stay of renewable six months’ validity in any of the countries. The passport is issued in all three EAC member states (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania). The passports are available at the Headquarters of the respective Immigration Departments in Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam. Only East African nationals may apply to be issued with the passports. The passport costs US$10 or the equivalent in EAC currencies. Processing of applications for the passports will normally take two to three weeks. Although the passport is only valid within the EAC, modalities of internationalizing the East African passport were being discussed with the aim towards having a common travel document for East Africans by 2006.
Other measures meant to ease border crossing for East Africans include: the issuance of inter-state passes (which commenced on 1st July 2003); a single immigration Departure/Entry card (adopted by the all 3 member states);
Existing and potential drawbacks:
(I) Institutional inertia: The time frame set for various actions was often too optimistic. The strategy did not always determine the feasibility for implementing various policy and programme actions based on country specific conditions. Policy actions, which required negotiation (protocol), such as free movement of capital, reduction of internal tariffs, and the like, lagged behind schedule. It would appear that in the spirit of broad consultations it was necessary that discussions and negotiations take ample time. The time taken was not always estimated in a realistic manner.
(ii) Slow decision making processes at national levels raised some concern. Country specific modes of operation were not fully considered. Decision making often involved several statutory steps. The process involved development of Cabinet Paper by the respective Ministry whereby the Paper had to be submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat for discussion by the Inter-Ministerial Technical Committee, and from there to the Cabinet. If the issue requires approval from the higher level it had to be passed to the Parliament for final approval. Issues, which required amendment of the Law and other sensitive issues had to pass all this process. The time taken could be quite substantial. This fact was not always taken into account in preparing time frame for activities.
(iii) There was a time lag between changes made and change of attitudes and modalities of operation on the part of the operational staff on the ground. In future, awareness campaigns and public education may be required to reduce the gravity of this problem.
(iv) Sequencing of certain activities was sometimes inappropriate. For instance, the Policy action that required development of adequate and reliable energy supply in the region demanded for further inter -grid connection by Jan.1997. In order to have this task undertaken, national power master plan should have been in place first. In contradiction, national power master plans were planned to be in place by January1998.
(v) Resource constraints caused delays in implementation. Implementation of certain activities depends on the availability of resources. For those activities whose implementation required additional finances from governments timing for inclusion in the budget process was crucial. The Implementation of certain programmes was tied to the goodwill of the international community. With the flow of international resources not forthcoming at the required time, these programmes were not implemented on time. The implementation of large regional projects was constrained by the narrow resource base. The lesson to be drawn from this experience is that ways of broadening the sources of finance should be sought.
(vi) pressures of restructuring and privatization overstretched the capacity of some institutions making it difficult to play their appropriate role in carrying out EAC obligations. For instance, telecommunications and railways institutions experienced this difficulty. While the large public institutions in particular were stuck in restructuring and privatization, new actors in the respective industries were emerging (e.g. in telecommunications, airlines, banking and insurance). Yet the EAC programmes did not adjust to these changes as expected under the principle of subsidiarity which the EAC has endorsed. The lesson to be drawn from this experience is that in future the EAC programmes will need to take fuller account of actors outside government for implementation of programmes.
(vii) Managing distribution of costs and benefits. Partner States are not equally developed. A major challenge in reaching agreement on CET is the differences in the levels of industrial development, economic structures and varying revenue implications. The perception of unequal development and unequal sharing of benefits and costs of integration has contributed to delaying the process of negotiations. However, these factors can be viewed as challenges for effective participation in the Community.
Negotiations have taken long in some areas because the benefits were not obvious. More comprehensive identification of benefits and costs and analysis of options available were not always carried out by the respective Partner States. The lessons to be drawn from this experience are that there is need to develop the institutional and human capacity to manage regional co-operation in the context of unequal levels of development of Partner States. Systematic lessons from the experience of other regional blocks would be useful.
Besides the benefits and challenges faced, the community needs to be guided by the community’s fundamental and operational principles.
Strengthening and consolidating the long standing political, economic, social, cultural and traditional ties by Partner States and associations between the people of the region in promoting a people-centred mutual development. Enhancing and strengthening 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 neighbourliness among the Partner States will go along way leading to the achievement of the community’s goals.
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