Trend Monitoring Report: East African integration. What to expect?

One fact is that 'poverty seems to be entrenching itself in the region'. Although the share of the population living below the poverty line has declined, the actual number of poor people in countries like Tanzania is increasing because of sustained growth of population. Fast urbanization, high level of unemployment - in particular among young people - the divide in rural-urban development and persisting movements of people from rural to urban environments, are the key features emerging in the East African regional landscape. Despite some resources invested in health, education, and other social sectors, national governments are lagging behind in both the achievement of development goals and the advancement of the integration process. Maintenance of pre-colonial administrative structures, corruption, low quality of leadership, weak states, are some of the major constraints the region is suffering.

What to expect?

The region is going to witness a new season of elections in the three-year period 2010-2012. This will definitely be 'a litmus test for the region'. Will Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zanzibar be able to neutralize their political tensions internally? Or rather are they going to witness a resurgence of instability due to new political unrest? Different futures can be visualized. Expectations and perceptions may differ depending on whether we look at business, people or public administration. The risk that countries - like Uganda - might be balkanizing and fuelling a regional domino effect; the frustration for Kenya's choice to make Kiswahili, the official language of the region, an optional subject in the national education system; the frightening suspect that a 'Rwandan genocide is still at large in Nairobi'.

These are all signals of underlying forces that may affect or jeopardize people's sympathy for regional integration. On a positive note, however, a sort of supra-national culture and ethos is affirming within the young generation, facilitated also by ICTs and the borderless communication system. Private businesses, especially some Kenyan firms, are continuing their expansion throughout the region, performing as a driving force for the region's economic integration.

While the single states are lagging behind, entangled in their own bureaucracy, there is a 'strong official push for the establishment of a single custom union, merging the current regional blocs of EAC, COMESA and SADC'. 'A bigger, internally driven and home-grown organisation', as expressed in the vision of the tripartite taskforce working on this project and chaired by the Amb. Juma Mwapachu, Secretary General of the EAC (and Vice president of SID).

Read the full report

  • In this issue:
  • An interview with the Secretary General of the East African Community
  • A look at some of the key developments in regional integration, following the 'East African's Regional Integration tracker'
  • HIV/AIDS and condoms
  • Institutional efforts at the regional level to tackle climate change and food security