The East African Federation is a proposal to bring the six countries of the East African Community (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda) into a political union. The project has been repeatedly delayed, due to problems of political will. In 2018, the EAC formed a twelve-member Committee of Experts to draft a written constitution for the regional group. The then Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, Joseph Maganda, predicted the draft constitution would be in effect in 2023. The countries would work together in a confederation before becoming a federation. A confederation is a group of states united in common interests and goals, without a higher government. A federation is a group of states that share a common federal government.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE EAST AFRICAN COMMUNITY?
The East African Community aims to ‘to widen and deepen economic, political, social and cultural integration in order to improve the quality of life of the people of East Africa through increased competitiveness, value added production, trade and investments’.
This integration has four pillars:
- A customs union where trade between states is free and untaxed.
- A common market for with free movement of goods, services, capital, and labour.
- A monetary union where states share a currency.
- A political federation called the East African Federation , where the states share a federal government.
The customs union began in 2005, and the common market was established in 2010. The EAC moved towards the monetary union with the adoption of the East African Monetary Union Protocol on the 30th November 2013. This allows for the adoption of a single currency within the decade. Some see it as important to increase integration between the countries, in order to achieve political federation.
However, some question this stage given the issues faced by the Eurozone monetary union in Europe.
The EAC define federation ‘as a process, not an event’. This reflects the difficulties the project has faced so far. There are advantages of closer cooperation. However, different priorities within the bloc could create difficulties. The IMF’s Christine Lagarde warned that pushing for integration faster than everyone involved is be comfortable with could cause problems. Confederation might be a solution to these problems, as members are free to leave if they don’t want to take part anymore.
The six nations have a total population of nearly 180,000,000. The average EAC growth rate of 6% is twice that of the rest of Africa. If it can overcome its political problems, an East African Federation could be a regional powerhouse.