East African Development Potential And Challenges

By Georgia Diaz

Africa is now emerging as the investment destination of choice with several multinationals trying to position their branches in different countries within the region. This is largely attributed to increasing population that forms a ready market in addition to provision of cheap labor. East African development is at a much faster pace than other regions as witnessed by several findings by economic and other financial institutions like the World Bank through their periodic reports.

The membership of the East African Community include Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Kenya all of which are located at the horn of Africa. With ever improving governance level largely attributed to the improving political and democratic space, the region is at forefront in continental development.

The recent discovery of large oil reserves in Kenya and Uganda has contributed immensely to this faster rate of economic growth. Other than oil, these countries are also rich in many other minerals that are exported such as copper from Uganda, Diamond from Tanzania, titanium and soda ash from Kenya among others.

The increasing interest by the investors setting up their operational base here indicates the significance that this region plays in African development. The mid positioning between the north and the south of Africa making this the based place to reach the African market. A quick survey of Nairobi city (the Kenyan capital) will reveal several multinationals that have taken advantage of this geographic positioning.

Infrastructural development is also impressive. The governments have invested heavily to develop road network, modern railway and increase the capacity of the major airports. There is an ongoing drilling of Mombasa port (coastal city in Kenya) to increase the port capacity to handle bigger ships.

Ambitious project of consolidating all East African member communities under one umbrella is at advanced stage. The completion of this process will see both political and economic integration of these countries with a single passport for the whole region and a single currency. This will foster trade and attract both tourists and investors to the region.

Insecurity and terrorist threats however continue to hinder East African development as many tourists and international investors are scared away. The insecurity is particular as a result of porous borders that the countries in this community share with the politically unstable countries like Somalia. There has been an increase in smuggling of firearms through the porous borders of these countries causing serious insecurity challenges.

Very high population growth rate on the other hand increases joblessness leading to increased social evils. With high HIV infection rates and poverty level in most of these countries, the general economic development process is taking place in a pace that is below its potential.

One of the major assets that remain untapped lies in the area of agriculture. Backed with good climate and several lakes and rivers, the region lies in fertile land that will be able to produce enough food to sustain the population and leave enough for export hence solving unemployment problems and fostering East African development plan.

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