The violent history of the East African region makes it one of the most economically unstable in the world. Comprising of nine countries, namely Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and Ethiopia, the region is not as endowed, in regards to minerals, as other regions such as West Africa and North Africa. Minerals found in this region include, Oil, in Sudan, South Sudan and as per recent discoveries by British oil company Tallow Oil Kenya and Uganda, Tanzanite from Tanzania, Limestone from Kenya, and coal.
Of the nine countries that make up Eastern Africa, four stand out due to their potential for economic growth. Below are detailed descriptions of each of these nations, from the good, to the bad to the worse.
Starting us of at number four is Somalia. According to the belief of many, you included, probably, Somalia is a vast barren wasteland roamed by AK-47 and RPG wielding men, warlords, and pirates. However, contrary to this stereotype, which I have to say is perpetrated by the International media and Hollywood through some of its film on Somalia, a prime example being Blackhawk Down, Somalia’s forest cover exceeds that of Kenya and Rwanda. The large size of Somalia means that it has many forests, which ironically are never shown whenever the country is featured on International media. Therefore, Somalia has large tracts of arable land suitable for agriculture.
In addition, Somalia has some of the best beaches in the world, if you have watched BlackHawk down you know what I mean. The country’s long coastline is also ideal for constructing a port large enough to accommodate the trade needs of the entire region. In essence, was Somalia a politically and economically stable nation it would definitely give the likes of South Africa and Kenya a run for their money in the tourism industry. Somalia is therefore a sleeping giant that has yet to awaken from its deep slumber in terms of its economic potential in the tourism sector.
Another thing that earns Somalia a place on my list is the entrepreneurial mindset of its inhabitants. The Somali ethnic group is the largest in Somalia, and no there is no relation between this ethnic group and the name Somalia. The Somalis can be found in Northern Kenya as well as in Somalia. The Somalis of Northern Kenya who share a common ancestry to Somalis in Somalia are known for their entrepreneurial mindset and know how. The Somalis people are credited with the success of the Estliegh District in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. This district that has the third largest Somali population after Somalia and Northern Kenya is the largest shopping district in the Capital. The district is a bustling metropolis has rows upon rows of boutiques and stores selling imported jewelry, clothing and shoes. Therefore, the Somali people hold the key to the nation’s economic growth.The Bad
One of the reasons behind Somalia’s turbulent history is the clan system that is used in the country. The fall of Said Barre in the 1990s plunged the country in to a protracted civil war as the various clans that make up the Somali ethnic group fought for control of the country. This gave rise to warlords such as Mohamed Farah Idid who was the subject of the film BlackHawk Down. To date, these clans are still conflicting not only in Somalia but also in Northern Kenya, hence the state of insecurity in Kenya’s Northern region which has claimed the lives of millions since 1963. The mistrust and lack of unity among these clans will be one of the biggest challenges to the new government of Somalia. Currently, Northern Somalia, which has managed to remain peaceful throughout Somalia’s violent existence does not want to be part of the new Federal Somalia but instead wants to be declared independent. Other states within Somalia such as Puntland have also expressed their desire to be declared independent. This general lack of unity is threatening to tear the nation in half. Hopefully, a peaceful solution will be found.The Worse
Now to the worse, the Al-Shabab terror movement, which filled the gap left by the fall of the collapse of the Islamic courts organization back in 2007. The Al-Shabab have been causing all kinds of havoc in East Africa in recent times with the most recent attack being the attack on a UN convoy in Somalia. The terror group is also credited with the devastating attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya in 2014, which claimed the lives of 69 people. The group also claimed responsibility for the attack on Garissa University College early this year, which claimed the lives of 147 students. Needless to say, Kenya has felt the blunt of the attacks primarily due to her involvement in the ousting of the Al-Shabab from the Somali port city of Kismayu which was they group’s last relevant stronghold. As long as the Al-Shabab group is in existence, it will be near impossible for Somalia to become stable.
Coming in at number three is another geographically colossal nation, Tanzania. Born from the political marriage of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Tanzania is one of the largest nations in Africa. Unlike Somalia, Tanzania is well on her way to full economic growth. Tanzania’s entertainment and sporting industries are the two main contributors to Tanzania’s growth. The love and admiration that Tanzanians have towards their celebrities is magical to say the least. This is the reason why Tanzania’s entertainment scene is light years ahead of her competitors in the region. Interestingly, Tanzanians speak Swahili and all their songs and films are in Swahili, so you can understand why it’s impressive that the like of Diamond Platinumz have acquired continental and even international acclaim. The soccer industry in Tanzania is also the envy of her neighbors. In 2011, a Tanzanian billionaire made a bid to acquire English Premier League club Arsenal FC. Though his bid did not go through, it is evidence of the country’s lucrative football industry. Azam FC of Tanzania is actually one of the wealthiest if not the wealthiest clubs in East Africa.
Tanzania just like her neighbors has numerous ethnic groups; however, Tanzanians have learned how to co-exist peacefully. Tanzania is probably the only country in East Africa that has never experienced tribal conflicts. You Swahili in Tanzania is not just a language but an instrument of social cohesion. What Tanzania has achieved in terms of social integration and cohesion is worthy of admiration.The Bad
Like all other cultures of the world, the Tanzanian culture is not free of Stereotypic attitudes, one of which is the general perception among many East Africans that Tanzanians are lazy. Sadly, the country’s legal system seems to agree with the stereotypes. Tanzania has some of the stringiest laws on foreigners, which makes it very difficult for non-Tanzanians to invest or work in the country. If you read my last article about the Tanzania-Kenya economic turf, then you know what I am talking about. Tanzania is similar to Ethiopia, which has a closed door trade policy. This policy essentially means that it is difficult for exported products and goods to be sold in Tanzania. Though this policy is good in terms of developing and growing local brands and products, it can be a double edged sword.The Worse
Like all other nations, Tanzania is not void of its fair share of challenges, one of which is the superstitious nature of her people. Tanzanians are probably the most superstitious people in East Africa and second in Africa after Nigerians. The widespread belief in witch craft is a big challenge to her economic growth, how you ask? Well for starters, many parts of Tanzania are remote and underdeveloped as people do not want to venture in to wealth creation in fear of being labeled as witches. The few who are wealthy are regarded with skepticism and fear. This belief is so rampart that some of the most successful people in the country, from musicians to politicians are rumored to be involved in witchcrafts. In recent times the internet has been abuzz with rumors that Diamond, arguably the most talented musician in Tanzania at present, has been consulting witches in an effort to increase his wealth.
This belief in witchcraft has given rise to a worrying and horrifying trend in Tanzania, the hunting of people with Albinism. People with albinism are considered magical, thus are hunted and killed and their body parts used in witchcraft related rituals. The hunting of people with albinism is one of the biggest challenges to Tanzania’s government.
2. KenyaThe Good
Kenya is probably the most developed nation in Eastern Africa; however, she is number two on this list. Kenya is a country that has experienced massive economic growth in the last four years. This has seen her become an important player in the global market. Almost all international organizations, institutions and companies have their Headquarters in Kenya, the UN included. The reason behind this is the welcoming and friendly nature of Kenyans.
Similar to Somalia, Kenya has been a victim of negative stereotyping perpetrated by the International Media. According to the notion of many, probably you included, Kenya is the most insecure place on planet earth. The new constitutional dispensation adopted by Kenya in 2010 is working wonders, for example for years the Eastern part of Kenya had remained underdeveloped, but today, thanks to devolution eastern Kenya is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. Policies adopted by the Kenya government have also had a positive impact on Kenya’s economy. Policies such as the UWEZO fund and Access to Government Procurement Opportunities are making it easy for the youth to access funds and government tenders.
Kenya is currently undergoing an infrastructural make over. At the center of this makeover are several projects whose completion will increase Kenya’s involvement in international trade. These projects are, the construction of a new Standard Gauge Railway line from the Port town of Mombasa all the way to Uganda’s capital Kampala, the construction of over 135,000 KM of road, the construction of new terminals and runways at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the LAPSSET Project, which I talked about in the last article
Additionally, Kenya’s middle class offers a vibrant market for international and local companies. The innovative nature of Kenyans is another positive feature that will help catapult the country to full economic growth. The MPESA money transfer technology is the only one of its kind in the world and is the creation of a group of students from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology in Kenya. Currently, Kenya is one of the best investment destinations in the worldThe Bad
Now let us look at what has been hindering Kenya’s journey to economic maturity. Number one is the new constitutional order, which will take time to be fully implemented. The thing about transitioning from one constitutional order to another is that it is not void of challenges. The endless debates between the various arms of government and the increased wage bill have been a major challenge. In the past the country had 210 Members of Parliament, presently, there are 222 Members of Parliament and an additional 47 Senators from the newly created 47 counties. This means that the public wage bill is more than before and finding funds to finance the new institutions has been a challenge for Kenya. The opposition’s push to amend the constitution, barely three years after it came in to effect is not helping.The Worse
In 2011, the then President of Kenya Mwai Kibaki ordered an armed incursion in to Somalia to pursue and destroy the Al-Shabab terror group. Though the mission was a complete success, it came at a price. Before the military incursion, Kenya had been devoid of any terror activities, however, since the incursion, the terror group has shifted its attacks to Kenya. Since 2011, there have been an estimated 30 terror attacks, with the worst being the attack on the Westgate mall in 2014, which claimed the lives of 69 people most of whom were foreigners and the recent attack on the Garissa University College that claimed the lives of 147 people. These terror attacks have had a negative impact on the tourism sector, which is the country’s main source of revenue. The number of tourists coming to Kenya has drastically reduced over the last two years, largely due to the travel bans imposed on certain parts of the country by European nations and the US.
What Rwanda has achieved in the last 21 years is astonishing. The small nation has managed to pick itself up after the devastation of the 1994 genocide. Today, Rwanda is a shining example of independent African governance. Dubbed the cleanest city in Eastern African, Rwanda’s capital Kigali is today a bustling metropolis that will be bigger than the likes of Nairobi, and Kampala.
Rwanda earns position one as it has managed to reach some of her neighbors in terms of economic growth within a relatively short period of time. Given what Rwanda has accomplished within 21 years I can not begin to imagine where she will be in the next twenty-one years.The Bad
Unfortunately, despite her success, Rwanda is still
haunted by her history. Rwanda has been accused of funding rebel groups in
Congo, claims which Rwanda has denied. Additionally, there remain individuals
who are hell bent on returning Rwanda back to her genocide days.
Most economists compare Rwanda to Kenya as the two are the most developed nations in East Africa. However, what gives Kenya an edge over her neighbor is her constitutional order. Unlike Kenya Rwanda has been termed by many critics as being a mild dictatorship. Paul Kagame, the current president has been in the presidency for the last 21 years, and if the Arab uprising is anything to go by, this may not be such a good thing. Kagame’s bid to run for a third term has been opposed by the Obama administration and it remains to be seen whether Kagame will run for a third term. However, it is our hope and prayer that Rwanda does not take the route of her closest neighbor Burundi.