Arusha — In July 1997, the East African Community (EAC), whose secretariat had back then just been slightly over a year since it was launched, came out with its emblem and logo.
It is that multi-coloured circle familiar in all documents produced or published by the Community with inscription reading 'Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki' below and 'EAC' on top.
Given the way the Community operates, that emblem must have come out after a competition among graphic artists and other people with such ideas to design it.
Ideally, it was representative of the EAC bloc, the maps of the three founder members Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, scaled according the sizes of the countries.
There is also a map of Lake Victoria, the only water body shared by the three countries and some 'dots' in the Indian Ocean, probably representing the islands; Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia.
The emblem has several circles for each pattern represented. For the EAC, which by the 1990s was still waking up from the mindset of huge parastatal sector, those were the kind of emblems which were designed to represent the thoughts of the day.
But some media outlets in the region were quick to point the weaknesses for the emblem in particular, saying its visual appearance does not send a clear message of regional integration.
For instance, it was pointed out that the logo had too many colours -- green, blue, yellow, red and white, if at all the latter is recognised as colour.
Many colours were not the only factor, which made some people disenchanted with the EAC emblem; some said it had too many objects on it; the maps, letters, handshakes, green and yellow belts, among others.
Probably the drawback was noted by some people within or outside EAC and some inquisitive members, one of them a Nairobi-based media consultant David Ohito, who is now reported to be fighting for a political post in the coming General Election in Kenya.
"EAC cannot move ahead the way things are now. It needs a new corporate identity and has to be re-branded to match with its key priorities," he said in Nairobi recently during a training workshops for senior journalists.
True to it. It has taken exactly 20 years for the regional body to start to realise that its emblem has to change in order to set in motion the bigger re-branding of the EAC and the entire integration process.
A team of officials from the EAC secretariat in Arusha is currently visiting the region in order to drum up support from the creative artists on designing a new emblem and logo for the Community.
This will be done through a competition which will involve the youth, notably from the premier universities in the region.
"The youth not only have the imagination and creativity but also possess the speed and dynamism of technology that older age groups lacked," said Mr Ramadhani Mwinyi, the acting permanent secretary in the Foreign Affairs ministry.
He was speaking during the official launch of the EAC Youth Competition to design a new emblem and logo for the Community at University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM).
He urged the students and all youths from all corners of Tanzania, including Zanzibar, to take advantage of the opportunities being offered by the Community "to give it a new corporate identity".
Tanzania, he said, had talented and creative youths "who can demostrate distinctive architectural capacity in the competition which is critical to the country, the youth and the region as a whole.
In Rwanda, a team visiting the region to get views on the EAC Brand Artchitecture was told that youths were capable of designing a new look for the Community.
The acting director general of EAC Integration in the Rwanda ministry of Trade, Industry and EAC Affairs, Ms Flavia Salafina, allayed fears that none of the entries for the desired EAC logo and emblem may be accepted by the secretariat and the partner states.
"I want to assure the secretariat that the youth in the region, including those in Rwanda, will be up to the challenge and do the job," she said.
She challenged the graphic arts students to work hard and ensure they make entries to the competition and win the prizes for the new look for EAC.
EAC officials say the desired new corporate identity for the regional organisation should be the one which will project the Community with the on-going reforms and priorities.
Under it a new logo and emblem will have to be designed to replace the current one. The exercise could see a new flag designed for the EAC to replace the current one which has been criticised for having too many colours.
While the pictorial image of the desired emblem should represent the EAC concept of regional integration,the logo should tell a story and brand of the regional organization that will enhance admiration.
Officials at the Arusha-based secretariat contend that the current emblem, in particular, was no longer suitable for the expanding bloc with ever changing priorities.
Several gaps were identified, including that its visual appearance does not send a clear message on the integration agenda for the bloc.
Lack of a common corporate identify has led to some EAC and organs institutions adopting the EAC logo as their primary identify whilst others have developed their own unique logos.
The current logo was designed 20 years ago at a time EAC has only three member states; Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Burundi and Rwanda joined in 2007, followed by South Sudan last year.
At that time also, the Community had only three institutions, incidentally all based in Uganda. Ever since, six more have been established and are scattered across the region and more are expected in the near future.
Launching competition, the secretary general of EAC Secretariat in South Sudan Mr Mou Mou Athian Kuol said the move follows a recent directive by the EAC Council of Ministers.
He urged the youth in his country specialising in graphic arts and design to work hard and participate actively in the competition, saying winners would be awarded.