The East African Community: The Sleeping Economic and Energy Giant in the Making

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The East African Community (EAC) is growing in all life perspectives; however, the growth is not well taped. Although these regional integration organisations are intended to achieve the same political and economic strengths as others, they are not yet fully utilised in Africa. Unsurprisingly, these potentials are unutilized; however, there are some chances and increasing loopholes to be spotlighted. The historical background of the EAC is well known to have collapsed, and economic reasons were the reason behind the collapse. Yet, the newly formed organisation intends to unite their efforts and strengthen their economic status.

The EAC now has about 8 member countries after the recent approval of Congo DR and the Republic of Somalia. This has increased the community’s population, geographical coverage, and many other useful opportunities. So, the increase implies opening new chances for exploring widely and bringing in new means of tapping opportunities. The initial member states had nearly the same financial opportunities. Still, new opportunities have been opened in Somalia, DR Congo, and South Sudan for the regional member states, but these remain untapped.

In terms of minerals, these countries joining the EAC bring in a diversity of minerals extracted from their soils. For example, all member countries produce gold. South Sudan is the third African biggest producer (93.6 metric tons), and Tanzania (53.2 tons) is the sixth. In comparison, Congo DR (25.3 tons) is the eighth of the top ten producers in Africa. That indicates that the EAC is hosting three giant gold producers in Africa. This means they are making a powerful community in terms of gold production and understanding the potential of gold as one of the potential minerals in terms of financial reserve and a powerful hedge against inflation.

The current global demand for rare minerals has also found a place in the EAC, whereby all member states produce—ranging from cobalt, copper, lithium, diamonds, coltan, amblygonite, wolframite, and tantalite-niobium. As the most useful and urgent minerals for cleaner energy transition, these minerals stand a chance of facilitating the initiatives within the member states and global need demand. Mobile phones, computer chips, solar panels, and batteries, which require these rare minerals, are essential resources for clean energy transformation initiatives. Indeed, as an economic and political hub, this EAC can also boost global transformation into cleaner energy.

Also read China Supports EACOP as Western Lenders Withdraw Over Environmental Concerns.

The EAC’s rapid growth brings in a powerful local market, whereby the status indicates about 320.2 citizens, making one of the largest local trading areas accessible by member states before allowing externals. Although on the move to full federation, the current political confederation provides a centre bolt for the full-fledged economic federation, yet providing access to this potential population and a strong economic bloc in the making.

Agriculture is an economic and livelihood activity for the East African Community. With the recent joining of the Somalia Republic, its land cover has increased substantially.  Additionally, the Congo DR’s potential in terms of agriculture makes it an even more attractive source of food and commercial products agriculture. The presence of major rivers, lakes such as Victoria, and oceans such as the Indian and Atlantic, ensures sustainable food security for the region.

The unique potential comes from several member states, and of particular interest is the ongoing East African Crude Pipeline (EACOP), which runs 1,443km from Kabale to Tanga. The initial plan was to transport Uganda’s crude oils to the port of Tanga in Tanzania. The potential of the pipelines has increased recently as some member countries eye this project as leverage for their endowed oils resources. South Sudan, which has long been in political turmoil, uses the EACOP to transport its oils to the external market. It is, therefore, likely to stretch the EACOP north of Uganda to reach South Sudan to connect the EACOP to the Indian Ocean port in Tanga. This indicates a new opportunity for the EAC member states, which is unexploited now but paving the way for future economic prosperity.

What Does the Current Development of EACOP Mean to the EAC Bloc?

Increasing employment opportunities for workers in constructing the infrastructure in Tanzania, Uganda, and subsequently, other member states. Example. The current Thermal Insulation Plant (TIS), inaugural in Tabora, Tanzania, will explore the talents of Tanzanians and Ugandans to benefit the EACOP. It is a very clear and open opportunity to develop the skills and competencies of the youths in the region, which goes parallel with showcasing the sustainability of the energy infrastructure of the longest-heated pipeline.

At the same weight, the EACOP solidifies the existing partnership and corporation in project management. Standing out as one of the major projects of the East African Community member states, it brings together these states in collaborative means to execute this prominent opportunity at their disposal. It is a very physical and feasible means of collaboration, standing as a historical and ground-breaking initiative owned by the member states partners.

Ready-made infrastructure and opportunity for the ongoing oil discoveries in the region to access world markets. It is of interest that other member states have discovered reserves of oils that are essential to such infrastructure. The EACOP has faced several stumbling blocks, but the vigilant leadership from member state heads and the authorities have made it possible. It is now an unstoppable project expected to break the records for such a state-of-the-art project. Kenya and Congo, with their deposits of oils, may in the future become an easy and cheapest alternative for their oil to access the world markets.

Read Related: Equator Principles in Peril? Financiers of EACOP Pipeline Face Potential Breach Accusations, Raising Red Flags for ESG-Focused Banks.

What Does EACOP Mean to Tanzania?

While conflict is not something to entertain, it comes with opportunities. Here, the Sudan state of conflicts has brought opportunity to the EAC region if utilized by member states. A good start can be the extension of EACOP, which will benefit the entire region bloc. The conflict is a result of scrambling and struggle for the wealthy utilization. When well managed, the chances for harmony and ceasefire are higher, and development enhancement is increased.

The current call to move to clean energy discourages using fossil fuels. For the East African Community and EACOP, it is an alert that this is a narrow and unique opportunity worth exploring at a good time. The increasing inventions of alternative energy and fuel sources would restrict the use of fossil fuels, making the investment less attractive. The chance is still high, but the trend may continue narrowing as time goes on; the best chance should be for the countries to speed up their efforts in the coming years to achieve economic prosperity. It is necessary to play the remaining few cards wisely before it is too late.

Peace, security, and harmony are good for sustainable development and prosperity. The fragility of political systems in the member states due to conflicts has diverted possibilities towards other dictions. How these opportunities are directed is determined by the presence of peace, security, and harmony, which Tanzania has maintained over the years. It is a leverage and kickstart for development in the region.

Tanzania, being a gateway for the region and especially for the landlocked countries, stands a chance to continue its role in the growth and development of the whole region. The only attention required is to ensure that while trades and goods, including people movements, increase, the proliferation of weapons does not increase. Some bandits are always waging wars as part of their agenda on every initiative, and some may be within while others are puppets.

The larger the East African Community landmass, the more the chance for complex political and economic challenges to be handled. The bigness comes through all sectors, not just the ugly ones. As the member states come together, they should be ready to address the region’s worst and ugliest problems. The current dynamics are not just about coming together but also about putting in place an effective and amicable framework for inclusive governance and development of the region. Tanzania can still showcase its leadership and cooperation in shaping the roadmap towards boosting self-sustained development initiatives.

Focusing on the inherent endowment of resources is much more important than the minor differences between countries. This can catapult the development process and inculcate a positive sense of cooperation.

Dr. Emanueli Ndossi, a seasoned EIA and EA Expert, directs J & Enviroconsult (T) Ltd, with over a decade of experience. His expertise covers Project Management, Monitoring, and Evaluation (M&E) for comprehensive environmental assessments. Dr. Ndossi, with impactful roles in WCST, TFCG, and the University of Queensland, has shaped conservation efforts work spans diverse sectors, contributing to sustainable practices in tourism and conservation. Dr. Ndossi holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the University of Göttingen and an M.Sc. in Environmental Management from the University of Queensland. His active engagement in organizations like ISIE, Carbon Lab, Soil Science Society of Germany, WCST, and FCC showcases his significant contributions to the environmental field.

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