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Improving the quality of life of the people of East Africa is at the heart of the regional integration process. The East African Community’s vision and mission are clearly stated as follows;

‘The Vision of EAC is a prosperous, competitive, secure, stable and politically united East Africa; and the Mission is to widen and deepen Economic, Political, Social and Culture integration in order to improve the quality of life of the people of East Africa through increased competitiveness, value added production, trade and investments.’

Given that these are the raisons d’être of the regional integration process the following three dimensions of the objectives, fundamental and operational principles of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community:

  1. [The] attainment of sustainable growth and development of the Partner States by the promotion of a more balanced and harmonious development of the Partner States (Article 5)
  2. Equitable distribution of benefits (Article 6)
  3. People-centred and market-driven co-operation (Article 7)

That the five East African Community states have registered impressive economic growth rates during the past decade is undisputable. The region averaged a 6.3 per cent economic growth rate between 2005 and 2010, a pace which has been maintained up to 2012. There is much less consensus on how this stellar growth performance has affected the welfare of ordinary East African citizens. To what extent have they participated in growing the economy? How has the growth in national income changed income and consumption at the level of the household or individual? The annual change in income per capita is a widely used indicator of how citizens are benefitting from growth.

Even more contentious is the distributional question which explores the equity with which the growing income is shared among a country’s people. Are the rewards of economic growth being concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy households – the top 10 per cent – or are they being disproportionately shared with the poor in society, namely the bottom 40 per cent? These fundamental questions of the inclusiveness and equity of economic growth have always exercised the minds of political, academic, business and civil society leaders, with varying degrees of intensity across time.