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[Dehai-WN] Theeastafrican.co.ke: The world is coming to East Africa, and they want your hearts and minds

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2012 00:24:53 +0200

The world is coming to East Africa, and they want your hearts and minds

East Africa has become the go-to place on the continent, to which the whole
world is paying attention.

East Africa has become the go-to place on the continent, to which the whole
world is paying attention.

By AHMED SALIM ( <javascript:void(0);> email the author)

Posted Saturday, March 31 2012 at 11:53

Any forward-looking strategist will have come across the African Development
Bank's "Africa in 50 Years' Time" report published in late 2011.

Its analysis and projections on the future of the five East African
Community countries and their eight neighbours (Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea,
Ethiopia, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan) are striking.

The Bank shows that these 13 economies have grown faster than the African
average since 2000.

That growth was outpaced by West Africa in 2010 (6.7 per cent against 6.2
per cent) and it will be again in 2020 (8.8 per cent against 7.9 per cent).

However, in all other future years and scenarios, the pace of East Africa's
economic growth will be faster than every other region in the continent.

As a result, its share of Africa's total GDP is projected to expand from 11
per cent (of $1.71 trillion) in 2010 to a very large 39 per cent (of between
$12 and $16 trillion) in 2060.

East Africa's share of the continent's population will have expanded from 27
per cent in 2010 to 32 per cent in 2060.

Per capita GDP is also anticipated to increase from the current $657 to
between $6,000 and $7,000 in the next 50 years.

No surprise then that almost out of the blue, East Africa has become the
go-to place on the continent, to which the whole world is paying attention.

In late February 2012, the EAC Secretary General Richard Sezibera made a
statement that was both hopeful and profoundly challenging, "This is
Africa's century, whether Africans own it or not." Nowhere else is this
statement more applicable than in East Africa.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the region have more than doubled
in the past ten years.

Total FDI inflows increased from $688 million in 2000 to $1.7 billion in
2010 with the highest recipients of these inflows being Tanzania and Uganda.

On a regional level, the $500 million injection that the EAC received from
China in the last quarter of 2011, earmarked for infrastructure investment,
is a major boost for the region.

Global powers are paying attention and the fact that China is striking
regional investment deals in addition to the already substantial bilateral
ties it has with member states goes to show they view the EAC as an
important partner in future.

China's trade and investment in Africa in general grew by 1,000 per cent
between 2000 and 2010. It overtook the United States as Africa's main
trading partner in 2009.

Between 2005 and 2010, intra-EAC trade expanded from $2.2 billion to $4.1
billion and in a sign of a rapidly globalising region, total trade with the
world doubled from $17.5 billion in 2005 to $37 billion in 2010.

Multilateral actors such as the African Development Bank Group have expanded
funding to the region from $267 million in 2005 to $863 million in 2010,
with over 80 per cent of these funds earmarked for infrastructure.

However, the sense of a region that is becoming increasingly militarised is
hard to shake off following Kenya's incursion into Somalia, President Barack
Obama's dispatch of 100 military advisers to Uganda, unmanned drones flying
throughout the region, and the subtle but growing role of the United States
Africa Command (Africom).

Africom had 13 joint major exercises planned for 2011, with three of these
exercises performed in Uganda, Tanzania and on the Indian Ocean. In October
2009, an operation in Uganda involved all five members of the EAC totalling
650 soldiers.

Furthermore, the US expanded its drone operations in the region by
establishing a base in Seychelles in 2011.

The approximate range of these drones, according to the Washington Post, is
over 1,800 kilometres, enough to cover Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia and southern

Drones are reportedly also launched from Ethiopia. In its 2012 posture
statement, Africom clearly states, "Our highest priority is the East Africa
region which is the nexus for transnational threats to our nation's national

The media surge

Al-Jazeera, the media network based in Qatar, will soon launch Al-Jazeera
Kiswahili, serving as a "new regional news and current affairs media network
in East Africa."

The network will be headquartered in Nairobi and has already begun a
vigorous process of recruiting journalists and reporters from across the

If the programme Africa Investigates is any indication of the type of
coverage Al-Jazeera Kiswahili will provide, the region's establishment can
expect to be rocked.

Al Jazeera is not alone in committing to the media surge; China's CCTV also
launched its Africa head office in Nairobi in November 2010.

With economic ties between Africa and China continuing to deepen, will
military ties follow suit?

In a sign of a growing rivalry between India and China for maritime
eminence, a senior Chinese navy officer has been quoted as suggesting that
China will not allow the Indian Ocean to be India's ocean.

A peoples' choice

It seems that the leadership and people of East Africa have two distinct
options of how they respond to the intensifying glare of the global
financial, military and media establishment and the ensuing battle for their
hearts and minds.

Doing nothing is one option. This could result in the different powers
pulling the countries apart in conflicting directions, weakening and
de-legitimising regional integration.

The second option is to collectively respond to the intensifying interest in
East Africa. Regional integration is not easy; in fact it will be painful at

However, a strong, integrated East African Community will be better able to
manage the intense interest in the region to its own advantage.

Ahmed Salim is a programme officer with the Society for International
Development and a principal author of the forthcoming "State of East Africa
Report 2012: Deepening Integration, Intensifying Challenges."


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Received on Sun Apr 01 2012 - 18:24:57 EDT
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