Two Basic Realities

This State of East Africa Report has argued that the extent of inequality is driven by what happens at the tail ends of the income distribution. Therefore, the ‘average’ East African, who monopolizes the attention and affection of researchers, policymakers and marketers, exists only as a statistical being created by an arithmetic combination of millions of vastly different life experiences. In this context, the first reality is that policies aimed at improving inclusiveness and enhancing equity must be designed for the populations at the edges – the rich 10 per cent at the top and the poorest forty per cent at the bottom of the wealth distribution. Addressing inequality means tackling the marginalization faced by the poorest, and also confronting the advantage enjoyed by the rich. In the political domain, for example, the conversation must revolve around empowering the poor by addressing the privilege of the powerful elites.
The second reality revolves around the challenge of effective implementation. East Africa is replete with well-articulated policies of every description. However, achieving their goals must overcome two obstacles: the absence of political will and weak capacity for effective policy execution. These two ingredients – will and skill – are vital to the success of any effort to transform the region.
Fortunately, the growing number and vibrant youthfulness of East Africa’s people suggests that the supply of both will and skill is as limitless as the region’s potential.