The Economic Crisis in Africa

THE latest (17th) meeting (NOT ‘last,’ please; it seems there’ll be many of such meetings well into the future… Mark my words) of the Summit of the East African Community (EAC) met in the Community’s statutory ‘capital,’ Arusha, March 2-3 this year.

The Summit is the supreme authority (so we’re told) of the (hitherto) five-member nations, namely: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – named strictly in alphabetical order, NOT on any other merit!

During the Summit, a new member – Southern Sudan, hewn from The Sudan-Khartoum in 2011, becoming the world’s newest nation-state – was mollycoddled on-board the EAC using kid gloves.

South Sudan (Sudan-Juba) had earnestly pleaded for EAC membership – perhaps little-knowing what the future of the Community would be on the ground… A Community that’s navigating with considerable difficulty treacherous regional integration waters, ostensibly bent on forming an East African Federation (EAF) – complete with single this, single that and single the other… Sheesh!

Another EAC membership applicant, Somalia, metaphorically had the door slammed in its face – or what little ‘face’ that beleaguered country still has as a cohesive, viable nation-state!

But, that’s really another story…

The EAC Summit this time round brought together only four of the six eligible Heads of State, Government and Commanders-in-Chief of their Armed Forces. These were Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta; Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, Rwanda President Paul Kagame – and, of course, the Host, Tanzania President John Magufuli…

[Incidentally, for some reason that isn’t clear, Tanzania was also ‘represented’ in Arusha by ‘another President:’ Zanzibar’s Ali Mohhammed Shein!

If Dr Shein was just another ‘invited guest,’ why was he involved in ceremonial functions like the cutting on March 3 of the tape to formally open the way for the construction of the Arusha-Holili/Taveta-Voi road…? After all, that road doesn’t traverse Zanzibar!

Again: Burundi was represented at Arusha NOT by the hale, ‘soccer-mad’ Pierre Nkurunzinza, but by his Vice-President, Joseph Butore.

South Sudan was represented NOT by its President, Salva Kirr, but by his Vice-, James Wani-Igga!

Oh… I don’t know… But, one’d have expected the real/22-carat President of the fresh-faced EAC member, South Sudan, to proudly be up there at the ‘socio-econo-political marriage’ which almost squarely puts his country with other members of the Comity of Nations!

Again: how does one explain the absence of Burundi’s strong-arm President Nkurunzinza who didn’t avail himself of the opportunity to mix it in there with his fellow Heads of State, etc, etc, during the sundowners, pray?

Oh; I (almost) get it… It’s quite possible he knew there’d be no sundowners in Arusha – what with Tanzania’s austere, no-merrymaking President Magufuli in charge…

Magufuli was confirmed the ‘new’ EAC Chairman by his colleagues – thereby practically succeeding himself in that ‘portfolio,’ as it were! Indeed, the man had virtually assumed the Summit Chieftainship from his predecessor, immediate-past President Jakaya Kikwete, on being sworn into the Presidency Nov. 5, 2015!

Then his Summit peers ‘gifted’ him with a full-year Chairmanship – ostensibly in tacit recognition of his much-vaunted prowess at Governance… Whew!

For starters, the ‘new’ Chairman criticized the choice of Ngurdoto Lodge as the Summit’s meeting place, at US$45 per person, instead of (say) the Arusha International Conference Centre ($30/person)… [Mtanzania: March 3, 2016].

There also were other positive developments… For instance: launching the 1120km Oil Pipeline Project from oil-rich Uganda to Tanga port, projected to create 15,000 jobs; and the 234.3km Arusha-Holili-Taveta-Voi Road Project…

On the face of things, one’s tempted to believe that, with Tanzania’s Magufuli at the EAC helm, who needs a Magic Man, pray?

The truth is that most consternating is the way the Summiteers tried to explain away the seemingly-endless impoverishment that beleaguers East Africans two generations post-political Independence from colonial rule!

The Summiteers correctly admitted that the EAC countries are relatively well-endowed with potential wealth in the forms of natural and other resources, as well as a myriad comparative advantages. Yet, they also freely admitted that East Africans have for inordinately-long remained relatively backward economically and socially!

So…? Says Chairman Magufuli: ‘If East Africans closely cooperate in Agriculture and Manufacturing, we’ll become autarkic, no longer depending on Western (sic) countries!’ Really…?

Uganda’s Museveni: ‘Tukizungumzia Uchumi was kisasa, Africa hakuna umaskini! Ina Utajiri mwingi wa Rasilmali isipokuwa inakosa Maendeleo tu! Shida ya wa-Afrika ni kulala; wanalala huku kumekucha…!’ (Roughly: in Modern Economics, there’s no poverty in Africa. The Continent is phenomenally-endowed with minerals and other resources. Problem is that Africans are still asleep well after dawn!

My God… What contrived abracadabra, coming from a leader 30 years at State House! What’s he done to ‘awaken’ his sleeping compatriots? What can he now achieve in his fading, failed reign – or is it feeding the greed by letting sleeping dogs lie?

The likes of Museveni should heed Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, who told it like it is – painting it warts and all!

Digging in deep, Kenyatta correctly averred that it’s the leaders who’ve been asleep on their watch down the years, not the people! In the event, he urged his fellow EAC leaders to change – and walk their cruel political talk which has so far been empty rhetoric.

Truer words were never said in a very, very long time… Are our leaders plain wrong or cunningly evasive on the real causes of poverty in resource-rich Africa? Cheers, anyway!