EAC post COVID-19: This is Hardly the Time to Postpone Decisions

State bureaucracy can be irritating. Regional bureaucracy in “matters of mutual interest” can be downright maddening. The Business Daily reports that the East Africa Community postponed an important session that was to discuss regional response against COVID-19, including the fiscal, economic and social consequences on the EAC. The postponement was at the request of South Sudan.

In a statement to newsrooms, the regional bloc said the meeting convened to discuss the coronavirus pandemic via video conferencing had been postponed to a later date at South Sudan’s request

One can only hope that the new date for the meeting will be set soon and the meeting will actually happen this time and quick decisions will be taken and the decisions will be implemented uniformly and the progress will be tracked and that there will be constant and prompt changes if needed.

Too much to hope for? I am afraid so.

However the challenge ahead is grave and the secretariat has correctly identified things that need to be decided upon, quickly.

Ahead of the meeting, the secretariat had proposed an array of incentives aimed at boosting resilience of firms and cushioning low income households.

I suppose these are not high on the priority of some countries in this region. The assumption that EAC still has time to deliberate and take action is dangerous. Even at the best of times, our economies barely inch forward. That our fragile economies will be affected negatively is not a risk at this point in time – it is already a certainty and the EAC secretariat has already identified the areas that need solid actions.

The secretariat wants countries to institute stimulus packages to boost local production and promote imports substitution. It also wants them to apply monetary and fiscal measures to counter inflationary pressures

Whatever decisions are taken, partner states typically need more time to implement. That time is what we, collectively, just do not have. Each day that passes without clear decisions means prolonged suffering within EAC boundaries. The time for proper leadership is now and as expected, our leaders are failing us.

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