Corona Virus Pandemic Crisis Deepens As East African Community Gets Cash Strapped.
The budget crisis in the East African community in the wake of Coronavirus pandemic has shaken the foundation upon which the block is premised. The regional block just like the rest of the world has been slowly drifting apart, navigating the economic shocks that have been extended on its region’s already struggling economies.
East Africa’s integration is waning and in dire need of austerity measures to cope with struggling economies in its member states. With disruptions and economic shocks caused by COVID-19, the East African Community secretariat is yet to make known its spending plans for the financial year that starts on July 1, 2020.
Much as the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic have caused stagnation, there were already outstanding challenges that had been frustrating the speed of the integration process. Budgeting for the region has over time become a complex and difficult undertaking in the face of the global pandemic. It requires putting in place annual plans that fall into a broader, pre-agreed medium-term expenditure framework. It is increasingly becoming difficult to imagine what the pandemic effect will have on the community’s priorities.
The continuous failure of member states to meet and agree on a unified COVID-19 strategy complicates the already fragile situation. Even without considering the administrative challenges, the implications of operating a business without a budget are grave. The institution stands a greater risk of sinking into debt at a time of growing uncertainty about its future. The block’s failure to generate a concrete budget before the start of the financial year will also have ripple effects down the line, handicapping the smooth running of East African Community business. The budget crisis should be a wakeup call to the waning commitment to the EAC. The region has been slowly but surely drifting apart, pointing to a deeper malaise that has been nibbling away at the spirit of East African integration for a while now.
The Heads of State Summit has not yet materialised. There is no sign that a meeting of the principals is anywhere close on the horizon, with one excuse after another being presented in a desperate bid to conceal the deepening gorge. The past two years have seen a rise of mercantilism that has made a mockery of the once seminal regional protocols that drove the agenda for the integration.
Despite existing rules that guide regional trade, Kenya and Uganda are rocked in a trade war. Uganda and Rwanda are embroiled in a conflict that has made them close their borders for a whole year without any intention to de-escalate very soon. Burundi has been engaged in a war of words with Rwanda over accusations of carrying out subversive activities against each other. Tanzania and Kenya to have been engaged in a COVID-19 row over truck drivers that do a cross-border movement.
What is currently at stake is the loss of a grand vision that once gave so much promise, that member states were ready to make bargains and compromises for the greater good of the block. The truth of the matter is that they have ditched the block for short term and mostly temporary interests.