The deadline for the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the East African Community (EAC) and the European Union elapsed again this week without any firm decisions by the EAC.
The EPA was supposed to ease comprehensive access to the wider European market devoid of quotas and other restrictions.
Of the EAC members, only Kenya and Rwanda have signed the agreement and the others still holding out are only hurting the region’s growth prospects.
Many argue that they have to carefully study the implications of signing, whether their interests will not be shortchanged. They fear that their counties will be inundated with European merchandise.
Those could be valid reasons as the EAC’s population of over 160 million is a tempting market for anyone and many countries would like to take a piece of the pie. But should we continue on that narrow-minded approach of fearing competition?
EAC should look at the larger picture since the world today is a global village. We should be looking out for opportunities and not fear to venture into the unknown.
There is a Kinyarwanda proverb loosely translated to mean that “a bird that does not fly out will never know where food is plenty” (Akanyoni katagurutse ntikamenya iyo bwera).
We need to test the temperature, otherwise we may never know what suits us or what comes as a double-edged sword. We have to be daring and do away with paranoia.
The world is a competitive stage and we ought to measure our pros and cons, but we will never know if we do not venture out. There might be more to gain in signing the EPA as a bloc instead of going our separate ways as the EAC will have more bargaining powers.