A meeting of experts from the five East African Community (EAC) partner states, which ended last week in Kigali, resolved to provide border communities with infrastructure and social services such as roads, electricity, healthcare, clean water, schools and storage facilities.
The move is part of the EAC Gender and Community Development Framework and Social Development Agenda, which aims at fighting poverty and unemployment, among others.
The ultimate beneficiaries of any economic integration are the ordinary people and, therefore, such grassroots initiatives will only consolidate the mandate and benefits of EAC to the local populace.
Indeed, the public has, in the past, largely regarded the EAC as an elitist club, driven by political and business leaders with little benefits trickling down to the ordinary people.
That’s an image that the regional grouping has been trying to change lately, but the best way to cultivate a positive perception is by setting up programmes that directly benefit the people.
By linking communities to well-paved roads and other mutually beneficial cross-border services, the regional bloc will ultimately earn people’s support in its quest to fast-track the remaining integration phases, notably the monetary union and the political federation.
In addition, it is imperative for the general public to genuinely benefit from the advantages that accrue to the implementation of the customs union protocol, including the unrestricted movement of people, goods and labour across the borders.
Translating the progress of the integration into actions that improve the quality of life at the grassroots will help the bloc avoid the same mistakes that resulted in the collapse of its predecessor.