Trend Monitoring Report: Greater Horn of East Africa

The first SID trend monitoring report of January 2010 explores the quality of life, forced and voluntary migration and mobility, connectivity and sentiments on regional integration in the Greater Horn of East Africa (GHEA)*. Changing migratory patterns, growing inequalities, and large diffusion of ICT: these are the key features of the first snapshot on the Greater Horn of East Africa (GHEA), prepared by SID for the Rockefeller Foundation. The GHEA is one of the poorest regions in the world, with five countries (out of 11) ranking at the lowest levels of the Human Development Index. Even as economic growth occurs, there is no equitable distribution of the benefits, with the result of a widening gap between rich and poor. Since poverty eradication is a major challenge for governments in this area, it is important to look at figures in order to better understand the reality, that nevertheless emerge to be as interesting as multifaceted and distinctive. To give an example, Tanzania — that presents the largest proportion of people living below the poverty line according to the international data — is improving significantly (according to national data) if compared to a high ranking country like Kenya. On the other hand, Kenya — being together with Djibouti the country in absolute terms with the lowest amount of people living below the international poverty line — occurs to be the most unequal country with the highest Gini Coefficient (48) in the region. Interestingly, Kenya and Ethiopia — namely the most unequal and the most equal countries in the region — have both experienced in the last few years a huge increase of mobile and internet users (in line with the ICT performance in the broader regional context).

What do these two countries have in common? How is the existing gap between economic growth and wealth distribution going to re-shape or affect the relationship between citizens and governmentsí in the region? How does the high incidence of the ICT dissemination impact society? Human mobility in the region is of a distressed kind, mostly induced by conflict and insecurity. However, a significant part is made of labour circulation.

Apart from some slight differences and few exceptions, most of the countries in the region are affected by inward and outward flows. This clearly shows that the bulk of people's mobility takes place within the region. This also happens with countries like Somalia and Sudan, both of them generating and hosting asylum seekers. What does this mean in terms of population patterns? Data on refugees and IDPs seems to suggest a higher degree of safety in the future for the Great Lakes countries (incl. DR Congo), with the bulk of insecurity persisting in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

However, general elections are scheduled to take place in most of the countries under scrutiny and this is likely to impact in one way or in another on the stability of the region. What scenarios can be envisaged out of the combination of these data and figures? What implications — in terms of perceptions around sense of belonging, connectivity and development — do they pose to the process of regional integration? Is people's circulation going to be enhanced as functional to further integration or rather it will be tightened as instrumental to further insecurity and fragmentation?

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* The exploration is based on a comparative analysis of the most recent data from UNDP, UNHCR and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), covering eleven countries of Burundi, Djibouti, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda


Photo: US Army Africa