The task of giving the East African Community a second chance is tough
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THE task of reviving the East African Community (EAC) is a tough one. In this article I describe the strategies, its benefits and challenges.

During the years of 1967 to 1977, we witnessed the formation of a vibrant EAC. Its headquarters was based in Arusha, Tanzania. Initially, the community was primarily comprised of three countries including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The leaders of the three countries were President Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, President Milton Obote of Uganda and President Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania. After 10 years of existence, the above organisational structure collapsed, but very unceremoniously.

What led to the disintegration was not made public. Nevertheless, people continued to speculate. Properties that belonged to the EAC had to be shared, although not equally because some of the infrastructures were immovable.

In the past we had a common currency, the shilling but later each country decided to have its own. We had an East African University and the East African Airways and Railways. Meeting in Arusha the top Government leaders of the above three countries decided to put aside their ideological differences and revived the EAC.

They also agreed to invite a few more countries to join the primary list of countries. As a result we added Rwanda and Burundi and the last country to be invited was Southern Sudan.

To achieve the goal of the current EAC we should spell out clearly what is it that we are envisaging to achieve? The leaders from the countries that are involved have to demonstrate that they have a strong desire, passion and determination to succeed.

They should all put aside their ideological differences. The people of East Africa are eagerly waiting for a policy formulation, focusing on improved socio-economic development. The people on the ground have already shown the way.

We are, currently, noticing intermarriages taking place in the early three countries. We are also witnessing interactions in different sectors including common market, tariffs, health, business, and communication.

People communicate in Kiswahili whenever they interact in business and social interactions even if they are of the same ethnic group. Movements of people are also taking place across borders. The three primary countries do deliver budget speeches on the same day each year for the last five years or more.

The people on the grass root want to see a robust economy because we are blessed by natural resources. If you have been following the news, you have seen several development partners visiting the East African countries to talk to various leaders and find out how they can assist in spearheading the economy. They certainly want to see us succeed.

They want to see the deliverables in terms of governance, anti-corruption, increased industrialisation, communication and infrastructure development. When development partners visit our countries they often ask us in what ways can they assist?

They also give suggestions on how we can use opportunities to tap and maximize the use of our natural resources. We are blessed by the Almighty God. We have a large population of approximately 120 million people.

We have the three great lakes, and we share some of the water from Lake Victoria passing through Uganda, the Sudan, and Ethiopia up to Egypt and extend the fluid via River Nile, the longest river. We have gas, oil, gold, uranium, coal and several other minerals, as well as the Kilimanjaro Mountain and wild life.

There are areas we need to prioritise. These are health, education, use of appropriate technology, industrialisation, agriculture, tourism, and communication. We need to bring people together including pastoralists and farmers.

In health and other related sectors we need to share expertise because we have a shortage of skilled human resources. In education, we must standardise and deliver quality education from primary, secondary up to university level in all the East African countries. We need to standardise the curricular for training.

Reduce the number of subjects the pupils and students study at their respective levels. We need to strengthen use of technology to impart knowledge and skills.

By standardising education, we shall build confidence in the young generation. They will be more motivated and competitive. Inferiority complex will be minimised. Similarly we shall be able to boost self esteem in young girls who think boys are better than them. Kiswahili and English should be used as a medium of instruction.

Promote plain English as well as Kiswahili writings. We need to put emphasis on mathematics and science subjects because we need these in all businesses. We need to introduce financial literacy right from the scratch.

Our children should be taught how to make more money, protect money, budget their money, and leverage and get more information about finances. I suggest that Robert Kiyosaki’s book on “How to increase Financial IQ” should be a standard textbook in Secondary schools and Universities.

Hard and soft skills should be taught at different levels of the education system in all countries. There are many challenges that should be addressed.

We should strive to fight tribalism in the countries where this bottleneck is like a hard nut to crack. The media should take the lead in fighting tribalism. People should imitate and think like the way we used to interact when we were studying abroad. We interacted easily and forgot our tribes.

We should try to help each other. Always we should examine the specific objectives and see ways to improve the intervention measures. We should think of “Big Results Now” (BRN) and quantify the deliverables.

Each country should play its part and do one’s own SWOT analysis. Find out what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are retarding progress towards integration of the community. We should always think about the people at the grass root.

How can we make their quality of life better? We need to be very transparent to each other. We must work hard to maintain and sustain what we have achieved so far. We don’t want to see another failure or downfall.

We must work together as one body. We need to forget about our ideological differences. People have to change their attitudes and abandon negative perceptions towards the EAC. We must think big and crack the subconscious minds of everybody.

Our leaders should continue using merit to appoint team leaders of different sectors and they should also empower them to focus on our long term goal of improved socio-economic development of the community.

  • Prepared by: Gernard Msamanga, MD,ScD. Professor of Community Health, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, (MUHAS). P.O. Box 65015, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. E-mail: gmsamanga748@ gmail.com. Phone (+255) 754 291971.
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