EAC too intimidated to finance own agenda

03Apr 2016
Isaac Mwangi
Guardian On Sunday
Ea Whispers
EAC too intimidated to finance own agenda

It is no secret that donors finance the lion’s share of activities by the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat and its regional institutions, a fact that we are nauseatingly reminded at every opportunity.

One such occasion was during the Fourth High-Level Dialogue of the EAC Partnership Fund held in Dar es Salaam on March 25. The dialogue was attended by heads of diplomatic missions accredited to the EAC and members of the Partnership Fund.

Since many people in the region are in no doubt impressed by the millions of dollars spent by donor nations on various projects in their own countries, they tend to appreciate this help and fail to see the bigger picture created by donor dependency syndrome.

And it is something that the current EAC chairman, President John Magufuli of Tanzania, would do well he looked into.

In fact, analysts have always been questioning the value of the aid given to the Third World, arguing that is designed to maintain the economic status quo through ensuring that developing countries do not rise up to utilize their full potential, and that they remain satellites to the Western economies.

But back to the Partnership Fund, is that it is comprised of 11 contributing members, all from the list of Western donors, namely Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the European Union and the United Kingdom.

It also gives potential contributing partners, namely Australia, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey, an observer status. Other donors who provide direct project support to EAC outside the fund include the United States and the World Bank.

On the positive side, the Partnership Fund has provided significant support in the implementation of the Customs Union and Common Market Protocols, private sector development, finalization of the one-stop border post regulations and negotiations for the Monetary Union Protocol.

It has also contributed to institutional strengthening, including the EAC Institutional Review, as well as efforts to enhance public awareness on EAC and development of the EAC Vision 2050, among many other completed and ongoing projects.

Indeed, the Fund has grown from an initial $645,000 in 2006/07 to over $10m in 2015/2016. Yet, these figures that get bandied around obscure some important details.

First, how much of the funds provided to the EAC actually meet the purposes for which they are intended?

It has now become quite clear, through annual reports of accounts and the queries raised by the Committee on Accounts of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), that the regional corruption filth has not spared the EAC Secretariat and other regional institutions.

On paper, therefore, a lot is being done using donor funds, a total negation to the reality on the ground where the funds fill in pockets of the senior officials who spend more time trotting the globe than in offices at home.

Where loans are involved, where not all is grant, the situation is doubly tragic. The people of East Africa are left paying for loans whose benefit is a polished form of corruption.

Related to this situation is the question: Before looking up to donors for funds to finance an ever-increasing list of projects, are available resources being put to the best use? Take the issue of EALA sittings, for instance. There is absolutely no reason why the regional legislature sittings should keep on moving from one capital to another, instead of Arusha. Is that what the legislatures of federated states elsewhere do?

This wanton wastage of public resources in a region faced with endemic poverty is inexcusable and unconscionable. Where is Magufuli’s whip?

An agenda that is financed by outsiders cannot truly belong to the people of East Africa. It means that donor powers will always have a powerful say in what happens within the region.

Does it sound strange then that an oil company in the West stands central in dictating the course of Uganda’s oil pipeline, shrugging off protocols and the regional interests?

When our leaders gleefully extol aid to our countries and institutions, they do the whole region a great disservice. Not only are we all forced to pander to foreign interests, we lose whatever little dignity left for the region. That cannot be the way to forge integration.