Launch of East African common market

Screenshot of Google's homepage in Uganda today. The text in the logo reads "Umoja ni nguvu, utengano ni udhaifu" -- Kiswahili for "Unity is strength, division is weakness."

Today marks the launch of the East African Community’s Common Market. What actually changed today, I’m not entirely sure. Various protocols have been designed to allow free movement of labor, capital and investment among Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. It seems like some of the details are still being worked out, but today definitely marks a step forward.

The East African describes the plan for the eventual establishment of a single central bank and single currency. Africa Review has a good summary of the history and issues at stake, including the future political federation. This is certainly a good move for East Africa, especially for the landlocked countries that rely on trade coming through their neighbors. However, contentious issues (such as customs revenue sharing and the loss of flexibility/sovereignty in policy setting) will make this a long process.

Most articles make explicit comparisons to the European Union. One interesting difference between East Africa’s process and the EU’s history: the role of donors. I’m curious what the World Bank and others are doing to encourage regional integration, and how it will impact their country programs.