The place and role of the East African Community in the region’s development on Wednesday was a major point of discussion on the sidelines of the five-day African Development Bank meeting taking place in Arusha.
Addressing delegates at a media breakfast, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka described the EAC as a role model for continental blocs in economic management.
He explained that the AfDB has been treating the EAC region as the flagship of Africa’s economy and a shining example worth emulating by other countries on the continent.
Dr Kaberuka further noted that the East African economy has remained stable over the past eight years despite a series of global financial crunches.
With an estimated population of 130 million, the EAC brings together Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, all of which have their economies closely tied to agriculture.
According to regional economic figures released recently, bloc’s GDP is above the estimated growth in the sub-Saharan Africa region. But consumer prices spiked last year, rising by 8.5 per cent compared to 7.2 per cent a year before, the rise in inflation blamed mainly on low agricultural production due to drought and high fuel prices recorded last year.
Records show that Tanzania and Uganda recorded a drop in consumer prices last year, from 10.5 and 9.4 per cent in 2010 to 7.0 and 6.5 per cent last year, respectively.
These indicators show that the region has been registering inspiring development ever since it was initiated over 11 years ago following the 1977 tragic collapse of the first attempt at integration involving Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
By far, the newly born bloc has been undertaking more regional projects than all other regional blocs combined – many of them much larger in size and in monetary terms.
Among these projects are the Lake Victoria Environment Management Programme (LVEMP), Nile Basin Initiative, construction of roads traversing the entire region, and construction of the bloc’s ultramodern secretariat buildings in Arusha.
The bloc has made several other commendable efforts towards regional integration, these including promoting investments in other parts of Africa, though the dream of a political federation may be some time away.
Granted, there have been hiccups on the way, but even then these are impressive developments for a regional bloc merely a decade old.
There is perhaps only one area on which the bloc needs to focus more on in order to catch up with or even outrun the likes of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) - and it relates to having the capacity to chip in militarily as a united force in the event of crises calling for such intervention.
While SADC and Ecowas can remove an illegally placed regime from power, the EAC has yet to give itself such powers. It’s an avenue the five partner states may wish to consider more seriously.
However, despite this apparent drawback, many observers concur that the EAC has little parallel in Africa.