When Kenya falters, its ramifications create an imbalance in the eastern African region. Trade wars could escalate and undermine Kenya’s role as a regional economic giant. Inland members of the East African Community (EAC) namely Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan and Rwanda already face trade and industry challenges, being highly dependent on the Kenyan sea-port in Mombasa for its supply of consumer products and import of industrial raw materials. The Ugandan economy registered a sluggish first quarter. “We are more concerned with events in Kenya which is a key trade partner. The Kenyan route is a risk factor because it affects our exports and collection of import duties and our growth projections depend how the events unfold,” said Dr. Albert Musisi, Commissioner at the Ugandan Finance Ministry.
Places as far as the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo feel its economy to be impacted by the events in Kenya, as the northern corridor which the strategic transport route in east and central Africa provides a gateway through Kenya. With the holiday season approaching, tourism is expected to take beating since Kenya is a decisive point in Africa’s tourism circuit. Ahead of the highly significant World Travel Market in London earlier next month, the political unrest in Kenya is expected to have an adverse effect on the EAC’s tourism and hospitality industry.
International corporate houses and trade blocs are closely observing the events in Kenya as much is at stake. Kenyans, particularly the business community and the trade unions need to push the conflicting political forces to the path of reconciliation. Many African countries have resorted to using the port of Dar-es-salaam and the longer central corridor through Tanzania. It wouldn’t be long before other African trade blocs like the larger African Economic Community (AEC) and its pillar groups like the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Regional Economic Communities (REC) would follow suit in search of feasible alternatives.
The author is a communication consultant and commentator on east and central African economic and political affairs.