20 April 2014

Africa: With These Small Steps, EAC Integration Is On Course

Being the Easter season, I would love to start by pointing out a few things that restored my hope for humanity around the East African region. As Rwandans were commemorating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta in his capacity as the chairman of the East African Community offered an apology on behalf of the neighbours for not having done enough to stop the Genocide.

Still on Kenyatta, allow me commend Kenya's first lady for taking part and completing the London Marathon in a bid to raise funds for maternal health care in Kenya. A marathon is not just a long distance it is a whole 42 kilometres and an extreme test of one's endurance. I will be honest here, I may be in position to out run a dog or thugs in a quick sprint but a marathon is way out of my league; so Mama Margaret Kenyatta deserves a round of applause.

The 'selfies' fad has spread and not left out the high and mighty in Kenya as we saw in a photo taken aboard a Kenya Airways plane that had the triumphant Kenyans who won the London Marathon including the first lady and the Kenyan president himself who in a remarkable show of modesty was in the background of the photo. On the left side of the same photo I saw Uganda's Kiprotich who many Kenyans love to refer to as a 'loaned' champion to Uganda.

Since my eyes easily catch anything to do with the EAC integration, I was pleased to see an advert in The East African newspaper by Kampala University where they stressed the fact that all students pay the same tuition fees. Now this is a University that together with Kampala International University have a real touch of East Africanness with lots of Rwandan, Burundian, Kenyan, Tanzanian as well as Eritrean, South Sudanese, Ethiopian and Congolese students. That is integration right there.

Another sweet sight for me was seeing the young man who had a bullet lodged in his head returning to our screens in a more healthy state. The sight of baby Satrin Osinya running around the studios of Citizen TV as his father was being interviewed was one to behold. Osinya's mother died when armed terrorist stormed a church and shot at random leaving him with a bullet in the head. The bullet was successfully removed by the surgeons giving him another chance at life.

When it comes to television I have noticed that since Rwanda switched from analogue to digital transmission, the number of TV stations has shot up suddenly. With many used to the state-run Rwanda Television and a few viewing TV 10, we now have Family TV, Lemigo TV and TV1 all joining the fray. I also noticed a Twitter account for KTV also promising to air soon in Rwanda.

This curious columnist also took time to dig up and look at the size of Bakhresa Group, a Tanzanian company famous for the Azam brand of foods. I learnt that they also have a media company called Azam Media (TV). As if that is not enough I later learnt that the same firm is joining the Ugandan digital pay TV market.

This comes on the heels of Kenya's Standard Group (KTN and Standard newspapers are some of their brands) signed a deal with Uganda's NBS TV which marks the group's entry to Uganda, a few years after their main rival Nation Media Group made inroads in the Uganda market.

In the banking sector we have seen Kenya's CBA bank opening shop in Uganda with plans to do the same in Rwanda anytime soon. I have also seen job adverts by Uganda's Crane Bank that is in advanced stages of opening for business in Rwanda.

Don't you just love all these linkages that point to a region that is integrating gradually. Like I have said before, the business people in East Africa continue to be the trendsetters when it comes to integration and are a sign that the future is a bright one.

Now if only those handling the big infrastructure projects like the major roads, railways and pipelines could also speed up then we can all get to the proverbial Canaan sooner. An integrated East Africa is bound to be an economic powerhouse but all this can only happen if we prepare for it adequately. Happy Easter.

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