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Learning Europe's Lessons in Africa

Authors: Blair Glencorse, and Charles Landow, Adviser to the President
September 7, 2012
Foreign Policy

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Even as the European Union's sovereign debt crisis comes "back from vacation," as a New York Times Magazine headline recently put it, a far less-known group of countries is following in the EU's very footsteps. This is the East African Community (EAC), a five-country bloc that is moving headlong toward the same kind of economic and political union now in peril in Europe.

The EU's experience -- including, not least, the ongoing Eurozone crisis -- offers plenty of lessons that could help the EAC replicate the EU's successes while avoiding its troubles. Economically, the evidence suggests that East African countries should vigorously integrate their markets but move cautiously regarding a common currency. Politically, they should focus intensely on accountability for democratic practices, though progress on this front will be more difficult than in the economic sphere.

The EAC's five countries -- Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda -- have made astoundingly rapid progress since the bloc was re-launched in 2000. (An earlier union of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda dissolved in 1977, ten years after its founding.)

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