‘Choices have Consequences’
Given the disappointing under performance of oil and gas export revenue, East Africa’s economy grows much slower than anticipated. Financial firms, telecom operators and various light manufacturing and food processors do well enough, by keeping wages low to protect their profits.Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are just about able to keep paying the interest on their Eurobonds,but the principal remains untouched.
East Africa’s middle classes have a few more goods, most of it bought on credit. The poor remain stuck relying on low quality public schools and poor health services, nagged by the feeling that the
foreign education and good quality healthcare are just out of their reach. They are trapped by the
‘free’ services that guarantee zero chance of providing a leg up.
When challenged to justify their re-election incumbent candidates are quick to respond with an impressive list of how much they have spent to provide free education, universal vaccination and other social services. Dissenters are carefully managed or subtly silenced.
By focusing on promoting freer trade and economic growth, regional integration resonates with business interests and political incumbents. But it offers little to the ordinary citizens whose ability to seize opportunities are handicapped by poor skills. For them, the East African dream remains just that, a dream.