Winner Takes All

The Stake-out

In the early years (2014-2020), oil and gas discoveries attract huge investments in preparation for extraction. As the contracts between governments and energy companies remain shrouded in secrecy, many fear that the deals benefit a few individuals at the expense of communities and nations. Large agribusiness investments are that are announced receive a similar fearful and skeptical response from citizens who wonder whether they face eviction from their land. There is little investment in new job-creating factories.

Young East Africans continue to move from villages to towns looking for work. Since it is almost impossible to get work without paying a bribe in cash or in kind, it is a migration to misery.Schooling has equipped them with no skills. Many parents see no point in continuing to sacrifice for fees, books and uniforms. Teachers rarely come to work. When they do, none of them do any teaching. Public hospitals remain free of doctors, equipment and medicines.

With few exceptions, the political discourse is really about the welfare of politicians. Opaque campaign financing keeps the door open to commercial interests and ensures that money wins elections. Under the guise of protecting social unity and stability, opposition parties agitating for reform, are met with hard force on the streets and gagging in the media. For the youth, armed resistance takes on a new appeal as the notoriety of the rebel groups in Eastern DRC, South Sudan and Somalia captures the imagination of the region’s youth.

Regional infrastructure projects proceed apace. The ‘coalition of the willing’ – Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda – secures funding for the gas and oil pipeline. In a reconciliatory gesture, Tanzania buys some shares in Uganda’s oil refinery and offers to extend its gas pipeline to Kenya.

The Sting

The decade between 2021 and 2030 sees a boom in East Africa’s energy production and exports to a resurgent Asia. It is accompanied by a collapse in manufacturing aimed at local and regional markets that cannot compete with imported finished goods. Many thousands of existing factory jobs disappear.

Large mechanized commercial farming targeted for export markets thrives. Small farms are either bought up or abandoned as young people accelerate their flight from the land to work as guards and maids in the growing security and personal services sectors, earning survival wages. Everyone else ekes out a desperate existence in informality. Child mortality and stunting rates climb higher as nutritious food is increasingly unaffordable for most.

Participatory democracy becomes a farce as most people abandon the ballot box. Voter turnout falls sharply to below 10 per cent, questioning the very validity of ‘elected representation.’ Political groups with radical ‘eat-the-rich’ social policies expand their popularity, scaring the political and business elite into boosting industrial, commercial and personal security. Walls are built around the affluent enclaves of East Africa’s towns and cities. Rebels in surrounding countries begin to coordinate action against economic targets – attacking key bridges, refineries and pipelines.

As the EAC integration process confers global legitimacy to local elites, it is pursued with vigour. The first EAC Partnership Fund Replenishment exercise attracts large private sector commitments. A grateful EAC allows firms to be incorporated as regional entities. Plans towards a monetary union are accelerated as budgets are balanced through brutal cuts in social spending and lax employment regulations.

The Close

The decade between 2031 and 2040 witnesses a peak extraction of East Africa’s oil, gas and mineral reserves. As the resource depletes, mines and wells are abandoned with little regard for their environmental effects. Heavy chemical use in commercial farming leaves large areas of poisoned land and water sources. High-paying tourists access the few remaining game parks and reserves on private jets and helicopters –road travel is too dangerous. Rwanda’s gorillas have been moved to private reserves ‘for their own protection’.

East Africans are sharply divided along income lines. The vast majority exist far below any poverty line, while the affluent minority live in gated cities, shuttling between them in private aircraft. For those on the outside, a living is earned in the large, largely private security and intelligence sector across the region. Poor young men and women line up at recruitment centres knowing that acceptance into the armed security forces guarantees regular meals, health care and decent living conditions. Others queue to become Human Donors, also craving a decent existence of premium feeding and medical care. In exchange,their extra kidneys, corneas or stem cells from aborted babies are harvested for the rich who use these ‘spare parts’ to lengthen their lifespan.

The region is governed by the business and political elite, which projects its force and is protected by a conglomerate of privatized armed security services. While the East African Community is made up of countries as legal signatories to the treaty, real power, money and force is concentrated in the club of business, security and political elites. The views of its Executive Advisory Council (EAC) are integral to all decisions made about the region, including social policy, expansion and foreign relations. The Community has effectively been privatized.