Challenging the Frontiers of African Integration:Dynamics of Policies,Politics and Transformation in the
East African Community, a new book on regional integration by Ambassador Juma V.
Mwapachu,Society for International Development’s President,formerly a Secretary General of the EAC is a must
read for the political elite,civil society,private sector as well as scholars and students of integration,says the 6th
Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity,now African Union and 5th Prime Minister of Tanzania,
Dr.Salim Ahmed Salim.
Arguably the foremost proponent of a ”United States of Africa”,an idea ostensibly first put forward in Hail,a
1924 Marcus Garvey poem,Col.Muammar Gaddafi’s cherished dream of a federal United States of Africa in all
its impracticality did resonate with me,albeit only to a certain extent.Today,an integrated Africa however sounds
more like it.Overlooking his leadership shortcomings,Gaddafi who was labelled a ‘Mad Dog’ by the
West,developed Libya without seeking financial aid from western-dominated aid agencies.Kwame
Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere too were major proponents of African unity.Need I belabour the fact that Africa is
the richest poorest continent?
Africa can feed itself.
Published in October this year,a new World Bank report; Africa Can Help Feed Africa:Removing the
barriers to regional trade in food staples proposes that if countries on the continent remove cross-border
restrictions and embrace more dynamic inter-regional trade,Africa could feed itself.Moreover,Africa could as well
generate an extra US $20 billion in yearly earnings if trade barriers between its countries are done away
with.Increased inter-regional trade trade,the report says,would have farmers meet the continent’s rising food
demand which is set to double by 2020 as rural-urban migration increases.The report also cites more job
creation in services such as distribution,reduction of poverty and cutting back on expensive food imports should
Africa intensify inter-regional trade.Of all African countries’ imported cereals,only 5% come from other African
countries.60% of the world’s remaining arable land is in Africa.About 400 million hectares of this land remains
uncultivated.Baffour Ankomah reports in the New African May 2012 issue that the development prospects of
Africa are intrinsically linked to the performance of the agricultural sector,and therefore,contrary to the
prescriptions of the economic orthodoxy once called the ”Washington Consensus”,African governments should
get more actively involved in the agricultural sector,if the continent is to achieve overall development.Most
African economies are agro-based.Agricultural labour comprises 59% of the total labour force and 13% of value
added to GDP in 2009.Something to note though:while prioritising Agriculture should be the way
forward,diversifying the economy is an added plus.Removal of trade barriers (price controls,export,import
bans,variable import tariffs and quotas) between African countries to enhance inter-regional trade would also
mean free movement of food between countries and from fertile areas to those where communities are suffering
food shortages.Africa’s staple food production is valued at at least US $50 billion yearly.I couldn’t help but
question why the word ‘help’ was and is in the report title though..As at 2008 an estimated 3.5- 4 million
Kenyans in urban areas were food insecure,about half the same number (1.3 million) in rural Kenya.The
Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture today puts the figure of starving Kenyans at 4 million annually.
Until recently,West Africa saw the greatest amount amount of international interest in exploration and
production whilst the East Africa region saw much less investment and research into its geological potential.All
this has now changed as potential for oil and gas discoveries across the region has seen it take the spotlight as being one of the world’s final and
most exciting frontiers for oil and gas exploration.With companies like Royal Dutch Shell,Tullow Oil,ENI,Galp
Energia,Cove Energy and BG Group making inroads into the region,pundits say development of regional
infrastructure for the oil and gas boom would have all and sundry benefit from the available opportunities.
Of course if the dreaded oil curse is avoided.
Reportedly,Africa receives $40 billion in ‘dead’ aid annually.A 5% increase in intra-African trade would give us in
excess of $400 billion per annum.Thus laying emphasis on the need for African integration.Talk of Africa
transforming Africa.The book as a matter of fact underscores African integration as an effective strategy in
mitigation of poverty and promotion of inclusive economic prosperity.46% of Kenyans today live below
the poverty line.According to World Bank Africa,today,there are 22 African countries with a total population of
about 400 million people which have attained middle income status,with most,Kenya included,to follow suit by
2025.That is if the current trend of yearly GDP growth of 5-6% continues,reckons World Bank
Economist,Wolfgang Fengler.A country becomes a middle-income country when it surpasses the $1000 GDP
per capita threshold.(World Bank). African Development Bank qualifies anybody with an annual income
exceeding $3,900 (Kshs.331,500) to be in the middle class category.African countries are however way too
dependent on Western capitalist economies to the extent that they are blind to the economic gains of African
integration thus low intra-regional trade.Thanks to the so-called globalized economy.Today,Africa’s GDP stands
at $2 trillion.Without South Africa and Nigeria,sub-Saharan Africa accounts for a mere 1.3% of world GDP,2.5 if
South Africa and Nigeria are included.So much for redistributive effects of a globalized
In East Africa’s case in particular,touted as the next frontier for gas and oil exploration, there’s lack of
understanding and knowledge about the integration process by politicians and constituents (citizenry) as
well,writes SID’s Ahmed Salim in his review of the book as regards some of the challenges pointed out by
Ambassador Mwapachu.The previous stages of integration(Customs Union,Common Market) too haven’t as fully
been implemented yet.Overlapping membership,poor infrastructure(East Africa is said to have the worst
transport network in Africa) and poorly developed financial markets are the other conspicuous bottle-
necks.Political stability,rather the lack thereof in individual countries,cannot be wished away either.
Regardless of the challenges of African integration,here’s some food for thought:”While we are divided in
European languages (read Anglophone Africa,Francophone Africa,Lusophone Africa etc), the natural
owners of those wonderful languages are busy building a united Europe.” -Julius Nyerere.