Last week while conducting an interview with The Governor of Central Bank Mr. Francois Kanimba on Rwanda’s 2010 monetary policy, one thing hit me. The EAC is one melting pot that will require a rare form of consensus to actualize the dream of the political federation.
Kanimba, as the top fiscal policy technocrat of the Government of Rwanda, talked about how convergence of the fiscal policy reform will be undertaken to enable East Africans to have a single currency -the eagerly awaited East African Shilling.
I was impressed by the policy position that all the member states had crafted. After the interview with the Governor one thing became clear to me. Despite the rich diversity that East Africans have, we still seem not to have reached the comfort zone that will form the key to unlocking the consensus needed to drive forth the remaining building blocks of the Federation.
I will illustrate my point.
Rwanda’s and Burundi’s unique points are not really ‘known’ by the other member states. There are several critical elements that these two entrants have that are not ‘appreciated’ by the other members.
As a Kenyan I get concerned by the numerous road blocks that I see over the expansive Kenyan road network which in one way or another hinder integration. If anything Rwanda has none of these stumbling blocks.
Why can’t Kenyans or Ugandans learn from Rwandans in this regard? The other has to do with what Rwandans or Burundians are scoring that others are taking for granted.
A casual search on Rwanda’s and even Burundi’s unique scores reveal very interesting inputs that can be used within the EAC for the purposes of cementing closer ties.
It is a fact though not very well known that East Africa has one of the worst deforestation rates in the world. On the other hand, Rwanda has one of the highest rates of reforestation in the world.
On the same breath while gender equity within most East African parliaments is a pipe dream, Rwanda remains the top scorer with the highest percentage of women represented in parliament in the whole world.
Still on parliament Rwanda’s embrace of things ICT along with its insistence on having none of those colonial hang-ups on how parliamentary business is conducted, as is the case with the rest of the EAC should be a reminder that East Africans need to chat out a truly and uniquely East African political system. Recently Rwanda became the first developing country to introduce mass vaccination of its children for Pneumococcal diseases.
Burundi is the least known EAC nation. We know that having emerged out of a protracted civil war the regional media, due to a host of factors, does not really focus on it.
However it will surprise many if it is said that Burundi has the highest participation rate of women in the labour force, which currently stands at over 90%.
None of these unique attributes are widely known by the rest of the EAC member states. If we would only have a forum of closely interacting and sharing such novel ideals, ideas and attributes the dream of attaining the political federation would be much less cumbersome.
Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah is a journalist with The New Times