It’s a promising start. Everyone is building. Shopping malls, offices and homes are mushrooming across East Africa. The construction boom is helping to fuel strong economic growth. Kenya and Tanzania join Rwanda in issuing Euro-bonds on international markets, confident that future oil and gas revenue will easily repay the resulting debt.
Regional governments are committing to spending lots of money on the poor from free laptops for primary school kids to free maternity services. And there are promises for more – more teachers,more doctors, more school desks, more fertilizer subsidies, and more youth funds. NGOs are invited to finance and manage schools and clinics.
People’s aspirations balloon as they expect the quality of their lives to rapidly and visibly improve.For some, it does. Smart phones are more available and affordable, as are new televisions and a wide variety of satellite decoders from the Middle East and China. Many are able to afford secondhand imported cars and cheap mopeds that choke the roads. Their lives are improving. Still,however, the poorest citizens continue to wait for the teacher, doctor, desks and books to arrive.
All countries hold major elections between 2015 and 2017. The campaigning is noisy and colourful. Candidates out-do each other in rolling out long lists of pledges to make life better for all. As fresh few faces are elected into parliaments and State Houses, there is hope for new beginnings.
The building boom is also connecting the EAC countries with new roads, port berths, airports, power lines and fibre optic cable. They are funded by domestic tax revenues and loans from the African Development Bank, western and Asian donors. Tanzania moves to exploit its geographic advantage to become a major logistics hub for the region. It re-embraces the EAC by dropping all transit charges for Rwanda and Burundi and offers to extend the Mtwara gas pipeline to Kenya. South Sudan joins
as the sixth member of the EAC. After a long wait, regional civil society organizations are granted‘Observer Status’ to be the voice of the people at the highest levels of the EAC.