President Yoweri Museveni has said that it is important for East Africa and Africa at large to integrate because it will boost Africa’s bargaining power in the world market.
President Museveni made the remarks during his address at the 19th Ordinary East African Community Heads of State Summit held at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala.
President Museveni said that integration serves four purposes: prosperity of citizens through bigger sales of goods and services on account of the market created, guarantee strategic security, end political, economic and social fragmentation of people linked culturally and management of shared national resources.
“In Africa, we must really know what will help us to get out of poverty. The numbers matter when it comes to creation of prosperity,” he said.
The President cited China whose population of 1.2 billion people has enabled that country become a big market.
“When China opened up its economy in 1987, its economy was US$153 billion but this has since then grown to US$ 12 trillion,” he said.
President Museveni said that he was glad that East Africans were finally getting convinced that numbers matter in economics.
“At the recent African Union Summit in Addis Ababa and yesterday at the Infrastructure and Health Retreat, it was gratifying to see that the mood on the continent is for prosperity,” he said.
The President, however, warned that although countries might achieve economic integration, it might not be enough to address the question of security and therefore called for political integration in regions where their people are compatible because of shared similarities such as language and culture.
“Unlike the European Union where different countries speak different languages and no one is willing to compromise on the main language, East Africa has Kiswahili which helps the people to communicate in all member countries,” he said.
He explained that even before considering the factor of Kiswahili, there are enough similarities among East Africans and these have enabled the leaders to come up with a draft constitution on the proposed East African Federation.
“East Africa was already integrated culturally and socially. The indigenous dialects of the East African tribes are similar. We are trying to resurrect what existed long ago and if we do not use this similarity for the prosperity of our people, history will condemn us,” he said.
President Museveni also explained that integration would help the East African community to conserve shared natural resources such as mountains, forests and rivers. “Integration will help us conserve shared resources such as river Kagera which has been destroyed by soil erosion and now has brown water. When I crossed that river in 1979 with the Tanzania army to fight Idi Amin, the river had blue water,” he noted.
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