The success of the East African Community’s (EAC) regional integration efforts lies in the ability of the five Partner States to lift each other in times of need.
Solidarity amongst the countries is an essential bedrock in fostering a strong relationship, that will not only see the block emerge stronger, but also deliver many benefits to her citizens.
So often regional blocks or groupings miss the point of the basis of their integration. At times, just focusing on economic issues at the peril of political issues or the reverse.
Both being so interlinked you ignore one at the mercy of the regional grouping’s overall agenda. That is what makes the recent announcement by the Government of Rwanda to contribute a total of USD 1 million towards Burundi’s fees to the EAC, a break from the past.
The EAC is tackling the political and the economic issues at the same time, given that Burundi is emerging out of a devastating civil strife, but also being a key trade partner within the EAC. The sooner she is assisted to get back on her feet, the better for the whole bloc.
The EAC’s agreement to assist Burundi also carries importance in the crafting of a new kind of politics amongst Africans themselves.
To start with, so often African institutions have relied solely on funding from western countries for their operations, often compromising them in times of crucial decision-making.
Examples are there of trade negotiations with western countries, in which African regional blocs are arm-twisted to agree to unfavourable trading arrangements.
All because they would like to keep the donor funds trickling in to buy, paper and printer toners. That is why the example set by the EAC, with Rwanda setting the ball rolling, in assisting a member who cannot pay fees is important for other regional blocs, to follow.
Other EAC member states, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, also pledged to support Burundi in this endeavour, to raise the USD 8 million she needs for her annual fee payment.
Surely if African solutions to African problems are to become a reality our leaders have to start putting their money where their mouths are. After all it is said money talks.