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Sacrificing South Sudan

The government of South Sudan submitted its application for the second time last year in an attempt to join East African Economic community.  The quest to join East Africa Community has caused mixed reaction from the members of the public. Many questions had been raised concerning readiness of the new nation to join custom union or economic integration, common market or free trade with the East African Countries, which have a head start advantage. 

Before I go in details let’s know what is regional integration and it purpose. Many definitions have been written. But for the purpose of this article I chose to use Business Dictionary definition, which defines Regional integration as, “An arrangement for enhancing cooperation through regional rules and institutions entered into by states of the same region. Regional integration could have as its objective political or economic goals or in some cases, a business initiative aimed at broader security and commercial purposes. Regional integration could have an intergovernmental or supranational organization”.

Regional Integration is not new in Africa. When African countries got their independence in sixties number of leaders called for integration of Africa. The prototypical integration quest for unity for Africa was influenced by political motivation and desire for sufficient scale to import substitution. There were no concrete steps taken till in early 70s and 80s when the most leaders picked up the call. The formed many economic communities or organizations. Some organizations formed at then including AOU lapsed or could not live up to the objectives. Some of these organizations collapsed by late 80s and 90s. 

Some economic blocks got opportunity for a face-lift and have been revived.  AOU for example, was revived and rename AU. The East Africa Economic community maintained its name but had collapsed. It was reawaken during President Moi of Kenya, Benjamin of Tanzania and Museveni of Uganda tenure respectively. 

The East Africa Community collapsed when Uganda and Tanzania opted out due to what they termed as unfair economic advantage for Kenya. Kenya has an economic advantage over the rest of East African countries because it has live in peace since independence uninterruptedly since 1960s. Uganda economic was interrupted by series of civil wars and coups. 

Despite effort made by the founding fathers the economic of Tanzania has continued to face some sort of difficulties since independence. This gave Kenya kind of a head start to Tanzania and Uganda. 

The leaders of this region have made a considerable effort to revive the community and have added two more members namely Rwanda and Burundi into their membership. South Sudan applied in 2005 and by 2009 was refused entry to the regional block because the community thought it was not ready. Perhaps we carried with us heavy burden of insecurity and backwardness. Who knows may be the community might have felt pity on the South Sudanese business community, which it can’t compete with East African business Community on equal footing.

How did East African community reconvened union after it had collapsed? Kenya was persuaded to agreement allowing goods export by Kenya to Uganda and Tanzania to be taxed by both Uganda and Tanzania while their goods would enter Kenya free of duty tax for a period of five years. This is to give the countries thereof to time to catch up. 

When one compares economic status, and level of exposure of the people of South Sudan with the above countries, namely Uganda and Tanzania, you would release that they are far ahead of South Sudan much more than Kenya is ahead of them. My humble question is what preparation did South Sudan put in place to help her citizens, especially her business community to cope with shock associated with a new economic environment - East African Community integration? If South Sudan gets admission today would her citizens compete with East Africans in business successfully? I think they would simply be maneuvered out of business and become consumers instead.

Why is so important to rush into this community? There are some advantages in joining any economic community. Politically speaking it is important to belong to any regional integration. Our world has not change much since memorial. What has change is civilization, but the strong still dominates the weak. Besides economic reasons, countries come together to guarantee political protection. This helps to warning the bullies that attack on one of them is an attack against all of them.

There could be an economic advantage if the countries involved are on equal economic strength. But when the countries in block are not of the same strength the weak get negative brand of the disadvantages.

South Sudan government needs to prepare the citizens before requesting to join the East Africa Community. If need be it should create a ministry of Regional trade and East Africa Affairs as to prepare policies thereof.

Our people may not be cooperative latter when they sense the disadvantages. Subsequently the East Africans may expel us. It will be more painful when we are forced out than when we first get prepared and join them to stay honorably. 

Watch our while it is early!

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