EAC can borrow a leaf from ECOWAS

There’s a wrong presupposition that something being pursued by many people is less likely to be successful compared to something being pursued a few people. At times, this may be true, or not.

There’re no convincing factors to determine that the likely outcome would depend on a big or small number of members. Naturally, success depends on a number of factors.   

Today, there’s a seemingly perennial problem of financial constraints at EAC resulting from non-compliance with regular contributions to the EAC budget by the Partner States. This issue is potentially paralyzing the activities of EAC.

It has been raised over and over again and is now causing a daunting prospect about the future of the EAC. If Partner States fail to commit to their obligations regarding regular contributions to the EAC budget, its future hangs in a balance.   

The East African Community (EAC) is a Regional Economic Community (REC) of six Partner States; inter alia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.

Under Article 132, paragraph 4, of the EAC Treaty provides that “the budget of the Community shall be funded by equal contributions by the Partner States…”

Reneging on this obligation is increasingly paralyzing the implementation of EAC programmes and activities. Resources of the EAC principally come from regular contributions of the Partner States and have to be given equitably, regardless of a Partner State’s GDP or its economic outlook.

These financial resources are utilised to run activities of the organization. Inasmuch as the Community may have other sources of funding, the Partner States bear primary duty to finance the Communities’ activities.

As days roll on, things are far from improving. This time it is widely reported that EAC is failing to pay salaries of its staff and some have returned to their country of origin and some activities have been suspended perhaps indefinitely.

So, this raises a question if this is not the beginning of the end of the EAC. This is an intergovernmental organization that was created and reinvigorated for the economic integration of member states. And the organization cannot operate without a serious commitment of Partner States, nor can it operate while facing up to financial constraints.

It can never be underestimated, however, that there’re inter-state political rows among the EAC Partner States, but all in all Member States have obligations incumbent on them. There’s a need for common understanding attuned to the attainment of EAC objectives whatsoever.

In my view, pursuing the attainment of EAC principal objectives should transcend inter-States feuds. Frankly, six EAC Partner States is a small number compared to 15 ECOWAS Member States, which are, relatively speaking, effective. Moreover, EAC countries have cultural, linguistic and geopolitical ties, and in the event of any arising issue can be easily worked out peacefully.

Taking a closer look at the Economic Community of West African States, better known as ECOWAS, is a regional political and economic union of fifteen countries located in West Africa. ECOWAS is meant to foster interstate economic and political cooperation.

ECOWAS countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. These countries have both cultural and geopolitical ties and shared a common economic interest.

In line with its specific aims, ECOWAS set out the following principal priorities: ‘the promotion of partnership between African countries, the elimination of import and export taxes, and the integration of member states policies’.

In working towards these priorities, it [ECOWAS] has made a couple of tremendous achievements. First, road construction between big cities—that the highways from Lagos-Abidjan, Nouakchott-Lagos, which made much easier than it was before. Second, the relations between the Anglophone and Francophone have been stabilized.

Third, issuance of the ECOWAS passport. It has significantly eased the movement of people within those areas. Fourth, telephone network for the member states, that’s to say, nowadays, interconnection is available across ECOWAS countries.

Fifth, no strict borders for nations and trades. In other words, ECOWAS has enabled West Africans to easily move among the member countries. Additionally, the trade barrier has been removed. People, goods and services travel around the countries with ease.

Apart from the threat of Boko Haram in Nigeria, security is generally guaranteed in the sub-region. The state of peace is kept by ECOWAS Monitoring Groups. The zones of conflicts are not so troublesome compared to what it used to be.

More interestingly, as part of its plans to make Africa a more integrated continent, leaders of the ECOWAS have adopted the name ‘ECO’ for a planned Single Currency to be used in the region in 2020.

The decision to create a single monetary zone was reached by the Heads of State of all 15 member countries at a summit of the ECOWAS, held in Lome, Togo in 1999. Though it requires the region to align with its monetary and fiscal policies, there’s commitment and hope to implement the planned Single Currency.

Drawing a lesson from ECOWAS, EAC Partner States need to show a recommitment to their obligations and stave off the organization from the financial predicament.

The writer is a law expert.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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