The East African Community and the South African Development Community

Two Beacons for Post-Colonial Development

When African countries became independent in the mid-20th century, they justifiably responded to problems facing their people. They formed regional groupings and organizations to support each other socially, economically, and politically. The South African Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) were two such organizations. Our essay examines how the EAC and SADC were established, how both have changed over time, and how they have affected the people in their respective regions.

Beginning in the 20th century, countries began to form organizations and unions with one another in the hope of achieving peace and strong economy for their people. Some examples of these organizations and unions are the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of the African Unity [now African Union], the East African Community, and the South African Development Community. The South African Development Community and East African Community are both examples of how regional organizations contribute to social, economic, and political development.

The different countries in Africa have gone through many political changes for a number of years. This is mainly due to European countries that colonized the African continent for various social, economic, and political reasons. Although, today, political power is in the hands of the majority Africans, the economic power is still in the hands of external forces, leading to instability in some of these countries. The natural resources of Africa are still in the hands of external forces that use various strategies, including forming and funding rebel military organizations, starting wars, causing instability, and distracting these countries from development, to maintain a grip on these resources.

The East African Community (EAC) and the South African Development Community (SADC) were thus created in their respective regions to work towards achieving progress while at the same time avoiding political and military instability. Specifically, the East African Community was formed to bring about regional integration and promote economic cooperation among member states in the East African region.

The three countries that formed the EAC were Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Once these three East African states gained independence in the early 1960s, they formed the East African Cooperation. On 1st December 1967, Presidents Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Milton Obote (Uganda) and Julius Nyerere (Tanzania) signed the treaty formally creating the East African Community.

The leaders of the three countries also created seven different institution to run the EAC and help it attain its main objectives. Among these seven institutions were the East African Authority, the East African Legislative Assembly, the Common Market Tribunal, the Councils, the Central Secretariat, the Court of Appeal, and the East African Development Bank.

But, almost ten years after its signing, in 1977, the EAC collapsed due to political, economic, and ideological differences. For instance, Tanzania embraced socialism, while Kenya followed mixed economy. Also, there was suspicion among member states that Kenya was benefiting more than the other two countries from the EAC. Tanzania felt that it had a relatively new economic system and feared its economy would not blossom under the EAC.

The straw that broke the camel's back as far as the EAC was concerned was Uganda's President Idi Amin Dada’s policy of "a closed Ugandan trade" that crippled Uganda’s economic backbone and destroyed the EAC. Idi Amin Dada's policies made it difficult for Uganda to commit to its obligations with the EAC. President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania complained about Iddi Amin Dada and said that Uganda weakened the authority of the EAC and he consequently refused to work with the Ugandan president. The EAC started facing many challenges. It even started losing money; it was crippled, and folded up in 1977.

The rebirth of EAC came on 29th April 1997 during a second summit of three heads of state of Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania in Arusha. The heads of states were Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania. This time, the leaders of the EAC countries agreed that for their countries to support one another, they needed to do more negotiation. This was done. The three countries then officially and formally launched the new East African Community in Arusha on 15th January 2001.

The leaders, while signing the treaty, added various protocols relating to the rules and procedure that each member state must follow. It also had the regulations for the admission of the other countries into the EAC. This allowed Burundi and Rwanda to join the community in 2009.

Since the signing in 1997, the EAC has been able to form different institutions and protocols to guide its operations. Some of the institutions are: the Summit, the Council of Ministers (CM), the Secretariat (EAS), the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), the Co-coordinating Committee, the Sectorial Committee, and the East African Development Bank (EADB). Each of these institutions regulate different aspects of development within the region, and the EAC itself.

One of these institutions relates to Kisumu, Kenya. This is the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC). The LVBC was established in December 2004, after a protocol for the sustainable development of Lake Victoria was signed on November 29, 2003. Lake Victoria is vital for the region since its water is shared by Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The LVBC is responsible for the development of the lake basin region on behalf of the EAC. The LVBC therefore promotes, coordinates, and facilitates development initiatives in the Lake Victoria basin.

Beginning in 2007, the headquarters for the LVBC was relocated to Kisumu, Kenya. This followed an agreement that, since Uganda and Tanzania already had more EAC institutions within their borders, they should allow for the LVBC to be relocated to Kisumu, Kenya. Institutions like the LVBC that protect the biodiversity of the lake play a large role in promoting and maintaining political stability and economic development for the countries in the EAC.

Other regional communities like the South African Development Community (SADC) similarly have environmental protection programs like the East African Community’s LVBC. The SADC, for example, has a program called the Bridging Water Series. This program aims at protecting the fifteen major rivers and valley in Southern Africa. The program has made documentaries to bring awareness to the citizens and the rest of the world. The series stresses how vital it is to protect the fresh water and the land that surrounds them. The SADC has been successful in other wildlife and environmental protection programs in the past. The SADC countries that are involved with the Bridging Water Series are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The members of the SADC have also formed many different protocols together that reach all aspects of life and society within the region.

The EAC and the SADC are therefore wonderful models for other countries on how they can form organizations and unions to support each other socially, economically, and politically. There is of course still much work to be done to fully accomplish the goals of the EAC, and the SADC, but the formation of such organizations is already making a huge difference in the lives of the people of the regions as a whole, and the people of Kisumu, in particular.