The Horn Of Africa States: If Only The Leaders Could Put Their Heads Together – OpEd

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The Wishlist at the beginning of a year and the end of another is always one of the burdens of life and people and this year’s Wishlist for the Horn of Africa States region includes among others the wish that if only the leaders of the region could put their heads together regularly, how changes would have occurred and how much faster the formation of a new regional block would have moved, and how much, many of the underlying infrastructural needs of the region, would have been covered and the Wishlist would have grown longer and longer.

We must first wish the leaders of the four constituent countries of the Horn of Africa States, (Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti – the SEED), an incredibly happy and pleasant new year. We must then advise them that peace and stability and hence security, economic growth, and in fact, political ability of a number of countries to face others with one voice, all require formal processing of co-operation and alliance treaties. It is where the culture and values of nations play a strong role and it is where the ethnic character also take center stage and it is where easing of governance, and human and material management on a collective format, assist the region negotiate with one voice and one hand.

We know of the major trade blocks of the world today. There is the European Union (EU) and there is the USMCA (US, Mexico, Canada), and there is the Gulf Co-operation Council (the GCC), and there is the East Africa Community (EAC), and many others and all of them were created to coalesce the members and enable them to negotiate trade deals for regional members with a stronger hand and create for them a more secure environment for trade and business to flourish within the blocks and with others.

Obviously, regional blocks assist in lessening trade restrictions, travel restrictions and other restrictions within a region and they also help face others with common approaches that would otherwise have been difficult. Regional blocks create standardization of processes and procedures which could be easily modified in the future as there would only be one source for those systems. Regional blocks have the ability to address and ease decision-making, marketing, pricing, taxation procedures and processes and other aspects related to trade, security and even politics. It helps foster peace and stability within a region and lessen foreign interferences or least only promote their goodwill and not their ill wills.

It is where our Wishlist for the Horn of Africa States region presents a brief list of the things they can do, if the leaders could put their heads together, and they do not have to invent new processes and procedures. Take it from the teacher, so we say, in the Horn of Africa States. There are regional processes and procedures that have already been tested and practiced and which work well across the globe. Maybe only finer terms specific to the region could be negotiated. And so, the first point in the Wishlist for the Horn of Africa States is that it abandons fear of each other and see only the threats from others beyond the region. Each of the constituent members have their own internal problems, and they have enemies from beyond the region, that can only be solved if they were working together.

The second point in the Wishlist would be a customs Union of the region. This would definitely improve trade within the region, now already taking place through illegal processes. Formalizing a customs union would capture all the illegal trade and push it out of the window. This would increase and improve trade within the region. A Customs union lead to economic integration, and hence political co-operation and eventually a common market and monetary union and finally a fiscal union. A customs union in the Horn of Africa States would develop the economy of the region in the long term and there is no reason why the leaders of the region cannot embark on it immediately.

The third point in the Wishlist is to have them lay the groundwork for the establishment of a common market. This would help deepen the customs union in terms of common policies on production and freedom of movement of capital, labor, goods and services i.e., the factors of production, within the constituent members states. 

The fourth point in our Wishlist for the Horn of Africa States is to have the leaders also start processing a monetary union. The current international monetary system is based on the Bretton Woods arrangements, and it appears that it has reached the end of its cycle as every other phenomena in nature does. That it is ending is evidenced by the current war in Europe where the antagonists have, first and foremost, included using monetary and financial systems as a way to weaken the other. It is perhaps time that the Horn of Africa States reverted to gold as a base for a future currency. Thinking of it and discussing it would be a good idea during the coming period. To be prepared, is good thing to do. Most central banks of the world are currently hoarding all the gold bullion they can find.

And the fourth point in our brief Wishlist for the Horn of Africa States region is to have the leaders start thinking of a fiscal union. This is at present far-fetched, but thinking of it and studying it, would not be harmful. It would improve the region’s financial and economic systems in the long run. Fiscal unions assist member states share the same budget, which in effect means that the same central authority would have to handle spending and taxation. It would, indeed, display a single union, united in diversity and destiny.

In the horn of Africa States region, we say that one only drinks enough from one’s own hands, which, in effect, means that the region should rely on itself only and not others, as so far been the case. This is the final point in our brief Wishlist for the region, if only the leaders could put their heads together.

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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