Let's Build One House: What Tanzanians' think about the East African Community

The East African Community (EAC) version 2.0 has to-date achieved two of its primary stages, being Customs Union (2005) and Common Market (2010). The EAC Treaty emphasizes economic co-operation and development with a strong focus on the social dimension. The co-operation and integration identified by EAC incorporates: Customs Union; Common Market; Monetary Union; and ultimately a Political Federation.


The EAC Treaty emphasizes economic co-operation and development with a strong focus on the social dimension. The co-operation and integration identified by EAC incorporates: Customs Union; Common Market; Monetary Union; and ultimately a Political Federation.

The EAC framework’s central principle is on people-centred co-operation, where the main beneficiaries of the Community are the East Africans from the 5 partner states. For regional integration to be successful and sustainable, it is important to incorporate full ownership and participation by the people. Poor involvement of the citizens of East Africa risks eroding the legitimacy of the Community and its ultimate objective of creating an East African Federation.

Sauti za Wananchi

It is against this backdrop that the Society for International Development (SID) and TWAWEZA sought the opinions of Mainland Tanzanians on the East African Community (EAC) and Tanzania's engagement with it, through a recently concluded, nationally representative mobile phone survey.

Key Findings from the Survey:

  1. Awareness of the East African Community

58 percent of Tanzanians have heard of the EAC; with majority (65 percent of this group) believing that the integration aims at attaining economic stability amongst its partner states, whilst 17 percent deemed it was to advance the social welfare of East Africans, and 12 percent to attain Political Federation.

According to a Survey by Uganda National NGO Forum, four out of ten respondents did not know what countries made up the EAC, with some mentioning South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) amongst the Partner states of the EAC. Further conclusions from this survey done in Uganda revealed that citizens from central Uganda were more knowledgeable about the EAC countries, a factor attributed to the fact that central region is relatively near the capital city as compared to other regions in Uganda.

Rwanda is also preparing to conduct a National Survey to assess the benefit of East African Community following a survey done by the EAC Ministry indicating that 56 percent of Rwandese do not understand the significance of integration process.

  1. Tanzanians expect positive economic impact from the EAC

Contrary to the notion that Tanzanians’ are anti-integration, its citizenry are of a different opinion. Twice as many Tanzanians (42 percent) believe that Tanzania will experience an economic boost from the EAC region as opposed to 20 percent of respondents who fear that integration will be economically harmful.

  1. Kenya and Uganda are the most popular integration partners

Some 85 percent of Tanzanians ‘strongly approve’ or ‘approve’ integration with Uganda and Kenya, contrary to the common narrative of Tanzania- Kenya antagonism. The least popular country is South Sudan as only 44 percent of Tanzanians are in favour of the said State to join the EAC.

  1. Tanzania should remain in the EAC

Tanzanians are optimistic about the EAC and its potential to bring benefits to Tanzania as supported by 80 percent of the Respondents. The most popular benefits listed were: Mining valuable extractives and Tourism by 57 percent of the Respondents, and trading within the EAC by 12 percent of the Respondents.

Uganda’s survey showed eight out of ten people expressing optimism  that the integration meant something positive and beneficial to them as integration means coming together for a common purpose to enhance development or enhancing friendship among countries and learning from each other to foster peace and security.

  1. The CoW is a ‘non-issue’

Cynics have suggested that the phrase “Coalition of the Willing (CoW)” (comprising of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) emanated from the supposed slow pace that Tanzania and Burundi were taking in committing to advancing certain regional projects which: relaxing work permits restrictions, allowing freer movement of East Africans across borders, minimizing cross- border tariffs and eliminating non-tariff barriers. But the citizens of Mainland Tanzania are of a different opinion. Eight out of ten Tanzanians were not aware of the CoW and that Tanzania had been excluded. From those who did, 67 percent believed Tanzania should be part of the coalition, compared to 28 percent who disagreed.

  1. Strong Tanzanian support for free movement of people across borders.

The most popular elements of the EAC to Tanzanians include the new single tourism visa for visitors visiting any East African country (82 percent approved); ability of citizens to travel across the EAC using just their national ID (82 percent approved); free movement of labour within the EAC (69 percent approved); joint infrastructure projects (78 percent approved); and amplifying the use of a common passport (70 percent approved).

The least popular aspects of regional integration to Tanzanians includes Joint regional army (64 percent disapproved); allowing land ownership by EAC citizens from other countries (70 percent disapproved), and a Unitary Government and single EAC Parliament (71 percent disapproved).

  1. Future of the EAC

Two thirds of the respondents believe that by 2025, the EAC will be at least as strong as it is today. 25 percent of respondents were unsure of what to expect in the future.


The survey depicts the views of 1,408 Mainland Tanzanians, out of a population of approximately 46 million. To what extent does the voice of these few Tanzanians represent the country’s vision? Does issues such as: opening up our borders resulting in speculative loss of jobs; fear of land ownership by Kenyans, Ugandans, Rwandese and Barundis, among others, remain a fear of just Tanzanians or also that of many other unspoken East Africans in the region?

  1. Tanzania already is in a Union: Before East Africans begin criticizing the pace at which Tanzania is moving to embrace regional integration projects, it bears noting where Tanzanians are coming from. It must be remembered that Tanzania is already in a union with Zanzibar, a union of two nations - Tanganyika and Zanzibar, with the latter also having its own parliament and president. This union faces with its own challenges and simmering political tensions between two famous political parties which stands for anything between ‘greater autonomy’ and secession.  The country is currently in the process of reviewing its 1977 Constitution trying to beat the 2015 polls deadline leading to a referendum thereafter. Would this be reason for Tanzanians “seemingly reluctance” to move at the same pace as its counterparts on matters concerning EAC regional integration process?
  1. Trouble in the DRC: The Democratic Republic of Congo casts a long, disruptive shadow in this part of the continent, Tanzanian troops are there as part of the United Nation’s new Force Intervention Brigade, authorized to assist the Congolese army as it takes on rebels from the M23 movement the east of the country, whilst Rwanda and Uganda, both implicated in a United Nations Security Council Committee Report from Group of Experts on DRC report as organisers and financiers of the M23 rebellion (both countries have denied the charges). In effect, Tanzania and Rwanda are fighting a proxy war in the DRC – a situation hardly conducive to neighbourly relations.
  1. Kenya’s ICC Case: Kenya too has an axe to grind against its southern neighbour, with accusations of Tanzania’s apparent reluctant to support Kenya’s bid to defer the International Criminal Court charges against its president and deputy president – and even more reluctant to allow the trials to be held in Arusha, as the Kenyan defence teams proposed. Tanzania changed its mind on both counts.

Despite these cracks within the EAC, it is much too early to contemplate its demise.

Even though the hiccup is not necessarily of Tanzania’s making, the onus is on President Kikwete’s administration to bring Tanzania back into the EAC fold, which can only be done if it ditches some of its trademark caution in a bid to catch up with its neighbours. As East Africa rushes forward with regional integration, standing still is the same as going backward – and no one, not even Tanzania, can afford to do that.

Article by Maureen Bwisa

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These findings were released by Twaweza and the Society for International Development (SID) in a research brief titled Let’s build one house! What Tanzanians think about the East African Community. The brief is based on data from Sauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone survey that interviews households across Mainland Tanzania. Data were collected in August 2014