Even as four member states of the East African Community endeavour to put their best feet forward to make the nascent Regional Economic Community succeed, Tanzania has not.
In what signals the country’s stay in a forced marriage, Tanzania’s performance in a number of dimensions of regional integration has lagged behind that of its East African peers -Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. This is according to the Africa Regional Integration Index (ARII), a new tool designed to measure the level of regional integration among African countries.
The index is a collaborative effort between the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). It seeks to collect data on the impacts of regional integration. Countries are assigned scores from a scale of 0.0 to 1.0. It was created using five dimensions including regional infrastructure, regional trade, productive integration, free movement of people and financial and macro-economic integration.
While the four countries have performed well above the African average- Tanzania has not. Kenya, the largest economy in the region, set the example in regional integration leading in three of the five dimensions that was used to design the index including regional trade, productive integration and free movement of people. Tanzania was last three dimensions including regional infrastructure, free movement of people, financial and macroeconomic integration. In essence, it is easier for a Tanzanian to enter Kenya and set a business than it is for a Kenyan to get into Tanzania and do the same.
Tanzania is among the big the countries that the report says still have room for improvement. “They need to integrate more by steering their economies towards the region,” read the report in part.
The only area where Tanzania’s performance is above average is on trade integration where it comes third with a score of 0.780, two places behind Kenya which has a maximum score of 1.0 points. Since 2014, there have been improvements in the turnaround in the movement of cargo from the port in Mombasa to Kampala, Uganda from 18 to four days and from Mombasa to Kigali (Rwanda) from 21 days to six days. Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda have introduced a single tourist visa, and markets are starting to emerge for the movement of professionals within the region through a framework for mutual recognition of professional standards.
The region has performed poorly in financial and macro-economic integration. This even as it sets its sight on having a single currency by 2024. Eventually, the heads of state of the member countries foresee a political federation. According to a World Bank report Migration and Remittances Fact Book 2016 Tanzania to Kenya, Tanzania to Uganda and Tanzania to Rwanda are some of the highest corridors of receiving remittances for $200. The EAC is also the second-fastest growing economic bloc after the Association of South East Asian Nations.