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Opinion

Why Kenya is critical to Africa's future

Peace in Africa hinges on regional integration.

(Page 2 of 2)



The stakes are particularly high for East Africa, since its leaders are committed to transforming the five-nation East African Community (consisting of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda) into a political federation by 2015.

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Even though Africa's leaders are increasingly preoccupied with a 'United States of Africa,' little attention has been paid to this East African economic federal initiative. The challenge there is that all five countries may have to let federalism, play a central role in managing intra- and inter-state relations.

So all eyes are on Kenya, where that federalizing process can be seen in the beginnings of its recent resolution.

Because Kenya is the economic hub of greater east Africa encompassing southern Sudan, its example is critical to the region. The landlocked east-central African hinterland depends on Kenya's port of Mombasa; a dependency highlighted by the extent to which Kenya's turmoil disrupted economic activity throughout the region, in Uganda especially.

As futuristic as this scenario may seem, east Africa's medium-to long-term security hinges on such a process given the demographic revolution exploding throughout the region.

Uganda is expected to have a population of 103 million by 2050, with 187 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There will be 183 million in Ethiopia. The current political map of the entire continent will not manage such an expansion within the confines of current colonially inherited boundaries.

Regional integration is East Africa's – and the continent's – only hope for peace, security, and stability. If US and Western policies toward Africa are to have any relevance in fostering stability, greater emphasis will have to go toward strengthening regional integration as a corollary to effective governance.

This should include encouraging African public policy research and debate on integration options factoring in intra-state democratic reforms. The challenge confronting the continent on this matter is huge: Where are the centers dedicated to studying African integration? Yet Africa's security interest depends on this deficit being redressed sooner rather than later.

Francis Kornegay is a senior researcher at the Center for Policy Studies in Johannesburg.

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