The Political Miscalculus Of The EAC (Part II) – OpEd


In the previous Part I of this discourse, we concluded that the Somali people were not asked about the entry into the EAC, and the pseudo politicians of the country ignored the will and desires and/or wishes of the public.  The people of the EAC, the nearly 300 hundred million people of the aspiring region were also similarly ignored. They are now, indeed, exposed to the uncertainties associated with the entry of Somalia into this regional block. In the art of strategies one should at least make a cost/benefit analysis and the first thing the EAC should have known was to have been about itself, and its people i.e. to master knowing itself and its people.  Aristotle explained long ago that “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. They focused only, it seems, on how to take advantage of the weak Somalia and did everything, ignoring its own rule systems, to bring in a wolf in sheep’s skin into their fold.

One thing they should perhaps know is that Somalia is a trading nation, where its people have been trading in all kinds of goods, throughout the existence of Somalis in the Horn of Africa and that should be from the early days of mankind on earth. They traded with Arabia across the sea from the Horn of Africa, India across the Indian ocean, China and other East Asian countries beyond the Indian Ocean. They also traded with Egypt and beyond Egypt, with ancient Europe (Greece and Rome). They brought gold and other goods from deep Africa and bones and hides and skins and, indeed, cereals and sold them to those regions and from those regions they brought manufactures, clothes and even agricultural products like cinnamon and sold them to some of those regions like Greece which called it Regio Cinnamonifora, as if they were the producers of the product, which they were not. They never told their Arab middlemen that this was from Sri Lanka and India. At present Somalia does not manufacture any thing and they are not good at serving either, so there is actually no tourism in the country. The hotels of the Somalia are mostly manned by East Africans. Perhaps the EAC only saw these East African waiters and cooks as a chance to open up a market for their cooks and servers – a bad calculation. Somalis can bring in others too.

Somalis currently import most of their needs be it consumer goods, capital goods, medicines, agricultural equipment, clothes, building materials whether it is wood, iron, bronze, zinc, tin, cement, and others from other parts of the world. Of course they, bring in some of the cheapest materials that cannot last long. They may import sugar, but this would be of the lowest quality, and it would come untaxed through some of the many small ports on the longest coast of any country in Africa, that of Somalia. All those goods would easily be passed on to the East Africa market, as Somalia is apart of it now. The goods may be of good quality, poor quality, wrong quality, and of course very cheap for the ordinary person in East Africa. This would kill all the manufactures of the region as cheaper substitute imports definitely replace them, be it whatever. The long coast of Somalia which the EAC coveted would now become not the paradise it was looking for but a source of hell for all the industrial base of the EAC.

Some of the major issues of Somali imports include deliberately falsified goods and especially pharmaceutical products, where some of the importers of Somalia are known to be working with some manufacturers of the generic medicines in Asia to falsify the content and ingredients of the medicines. Where there is, for instance a 500mg of a certain medicine, only 250mg may be the actual medicine/agent but the rest may be just flour or some other cheap stuff, when the actual label on the package would mention a 500mg content. The main culprit in this matter always remains the weak governance in Somalia, which has no quality control systems over any goods that come into the country or control over its ports or control over its people and territory. The Federal Government of Somalia is reported not to be in control of even its presidential Palace or Government houses around it, let alone Mogadishu, the capital and the rest of the country. No wonder there are bombs every so often in the city. It perhaps explains why the President of the country is a jetsetter and travelling away from the country all the time to every conceivable meeting outside the country. A general comment among Somalis is that he is so scared of sitting in his office or he is more respected outside as a president than among his own people. But that is Somalia’s problem!

The EAC problem, is that it has allowed among its fold an unqualified partner. The citizens of the EAC, who were not consulted, would pay a heavy price down the road, unless the EAC perhaps, freezes the membership of Somalia, until it puts its house in order. The EAC countries, although they are better organized than Somalia, remain themselves among the most backward in the world in many respects including institutions, infrastructures, business sophistication parameters and many other measures. They cannot add value to Somalia and Somalia’s unruliness may overwhelm their existing institutions and infrastructures, which would make the region even less performant than it actually is today. One may  note again that “Abdo made a mistake in the calculation”.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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