Will The Dom­i­nance Of The East African Com­mu­nity (EAC) By One Part­ner State Lead To Its Col­lapse Again?

By: Mugoya Musa

The ex­is­tence of the EAC dates way back in 1917 un­der the colo­nial mas­ters with Kenya and Uganda, later to be joined by Tan­ganyika in 1927. It was for­mally es­tab­lished in 1967 by three in­de­pen­dent East African coun­tries (Kenya, Uganda and Tan­za­nia) and ex­isted from 1967 to 1977 when it col­lapsed de­spite be­ing re­garded as the most pros­per­ous re­gional in­te­gra­tion of the time. Dur­ing this pe­riod re­gional bod­ies like the East African De­vel­op­ment Bank, Uni­ver­sity of East Africa, East African Rail­ways, East African Air­ways were es­tab­lished.

Dur­ing the dis­so­lu­tion of the Com­mu­nity, part­ner states ne­go­ti­ated a Me­di­a­tion Agree­ment for the Pi­sion of As­sets and Li­a­bil­i­ties, which they signed in 1984. The treaty also guided the fu­ture co­op­er­a­tion of the states that led to re-es­tab­lish­ment of EAC ef­fec­tive 2000.

Since then, the cur­rent Com­mu­ni­ty’s mem­ber­ship has ex­panded even be­yond the re­gional bound­aries. It has 6 mem­ber states (Rwanda, Bu­rundi and now South Su­dan on ad­di­tion to the orig­i­nal three). I think this ex­pan­sion is guided by po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic in­ter­ests.

The cur­rent com­mu­nity is struc­tured onto 4 pil­lars, that is cus­toms union, com­mon mar­ket, mon­e­tary union and po­lit­i­cal fed­er­a­tion. On pa­per var­i­ous pro­to­cols have been adopted to for­mal­ize the first three, with the lat­ter be­ing work still in progress- but I highly doubt its re­al­iza­tion. These ef­forts are ex­pected to breed ba­si­cally 4 free­doms; free move­ment of labour, goods, ser­vices and cap­i­tal to en­hance trade, in­vest­ment and de­vel­op­ment.

It is on this back­ground that part­ner states ex­pect to carry out busi­ness with fel­low mem­ber states with­out trade bar­ri­ers. How­ever, this has not been the case, Kenya which is re­garded as the gi­ant econ­omy in the com­mu­nity and earned a lot from ex­ports with in the com­mu­nity has sti­fled ef­forts by its fel­low mem­bers to ex­port to its econ­omy which is a threat to the in­te­gra­tion.

Al­though blame is put on Am­in’s in­va­sion of Tan­za­nia for the col­lapse of the com­mu­nity in 1977, this was just a spur to the loom­ing dis­in­te­gra­tion due to dom­i­nance of the com­mu­ni­ty’s econ­omy by one part­ner state – Kenya, a sit­u­a­tion that per­sists up to­day.

While re­act­ing on the pre­sen­ta­tion by David Ebiru, Deputy Ex­ec­u­tive of the Uganda Na­tional Bu­reau of Stan­dards be­fore the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on Trade, Tourism and In­dus­try, Timuzigu Ka­mugisha Micheal, Ka­jara County Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment al­leged the in­creased sti­fling of Uganda made prod­ucts by the Kenya Au­thor­ity re­spon­si­ble for Stan­dards on ac­count of be­ing be­low stan­dard yet they are later repack­aged and sold as Kenyan prod­ucts.

Ear­lier on, while ap­pear­ing be­fore the same com­mit­tee, Richard Mu­biru of the Uganda Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion in­formed the com­mit­tee of the ages Ugan­dan sugar spends on the Kenyan boarder wait­ing for clear­ance yet Kenyan Prod­ucts are given easy en­try into the Ugan­dan Mar­ket. He fur­ther al­leged that there is a racket of politi­cians in Kenya whose ma­jor role is to re­strict the en­try of Ugan­dan sugar into the Kenyan mar­ket while giv­ing free way to the Brazil­ian sugar. The Chair­per­son of the Com­mit­tee and Bu­lam­ogi County Mem­ber, Keneth Lubogo in­di­cated that it is high time the com­mit­tee un­der takes an au­dit to a cer­tain the ben­e­fit Uganda has de­rived from this In­te­gra­tion.

But as we wait for the au­dit, whose re­sults can be vin­di­cated. The truth of the mat­ter is that Kenya has and still earns a lot from this in­te­gra­tion. In 2014, Kenya ex­ported worth US$ 569m to Uganda[1] and in turn Uganda ex­ported goods worth US$ 268m to Kenya’s econ­omy[2]. For a long time, Kam­pala’s con­cen­tra­tion has been on paci­fy­ing the ground in the re­gion as Nairobi moves in with her trade and com­merce.  it is not only its fin­ished prod­ucts but also Fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions like Kenya Com­mer­cial Bank, Eq­uity Bank, In­sur­ance Com­pa­nies and Su­per Mar­kets have crossed its board­ers to now al­most all mem­ber states.

Al­though Kam­pala should take blame for its eco­nomic dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion that it is mainly pro­cess­ing semi-processed prod­ucts like maize and petty labour (Boda-Boda op­er­a­tors, restau­rants op­er­a­tors and Sa­loon at­ten­dants). For eq­ui­ty’s sake why should­n’t Ugan­dan also en­ter the Kenyan mar­ket un­re­stricted?

To at­tempt to an­swer this ques­tion, the com­mu­nity has ei­ther to adopt quota sys­tems to spec­ify the num­ber of goods that every mem­ber coun­try ex­port to fel­low mem­ber states or goes back to tar­iff bar­ri­ers. This will en­able small economies to ben­e­fit from tax­ing goods from big economies like Ken­nya in­stead of pro­vid­ing mar­kets to Kenyan pro­duce and at the same time los­ing out the tax yet Kenya can’t al­low them to ex­port into its econ­omy.

The com­mu­nity should as­pire to achieve equal­ity and eq­uity of trade among its mem­ber state­ments. For in­stance, dur­ing the early stages of the com­mu­nity op­er­ated a mon­e­tary union with a cen­tury board and par­ity cur­rency. This meant that each State owned its cur­rency but one Tan­za­nia shilling was equal to one Uganda shilling.

[1] http://​at­las.me­dia.mit.edu/​en/​pro­file/​coun­try/​ken/

[2] http://​at­las.me­dia.mit.edu/​en/​pro­file/​coun­try/​uga/