Speech By H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda at the 16th COMESA Summit
The greatest disadvantage Africa faced at independence,ever since 1957, when Ghana got independence, waspolitical balkanization of this continent. The NorthAmerican Continent has got only three countries — USA,- Canada and Mexico. The South American continent hasgot 15 countries including the Central American Isthmus
and the three dependencies of Falkland Islands, FrenchGuiana, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The Australian continent has got one country, Australia. The Indian sub-continent has got only six countries whichare: Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal andBhutan. The huge Euro-Asian landmass, stretching fromthe border of Poland to the Pacific, until 1990, had onlysix countries which were: the Soviet Union, Afghanistan,China, Korea, Mongolia
and Iran, if you excluded theBalkans and the Middle East. This was a land area of about 12 million square miles, bigger than the whole of Africa. When the Soviet Union broke up, there are nowmore countries in that zone of the globe. When,however, it comes to Africa, there are now 54 countries.None of them is more than one million square miles or200 million people. About 36 of them, even today, havegot a population less than 15 million. At independence,some had as few people as less than one million.
This balkanization posed the following problems to thenewly independent Africa:Small economies on account of, not only the purchasingpower of the population because of under-developmentand small incomes, but also on account of the smallnumbers of consumers even in absolute terms. Withoutconsumers and adequate purchasing power, enterprises(businesses) cannot thrive. Profitability of theseenterprises is undermined.
If the profitability is affected,then, few enterprises (e.g. Foreign Direct Investments(FDIs) will be attracted to these economies and few newones will emerge. Without enough number of enterprisesemerging or being attracted in an economy, jobs will notbe created, goods and services will not be available (orwill have to be imported), technology will not grow, thetax base will not expand and, therefore, funding socialservices (health, education, etc.) and infrastructure(roads, electricity, etc.) will be very difficult, etc. Thebest example is to compare China with East Africa. Since
1978 when China started its open-door policy, US$ 1.232trillion have been attracted into that country from outsideas FDI. Yet they are communists and do not have thefashion of multi-party democracy Africa has beenengaged in they have a different system of governance
which has served them well. East Africa, on the otherhand, has only been able to attract US$ 19.1 billion in thesame period in FDI. Yet we have been running freemarkets, running multi-party democracy, etc. China nowis the 2nd biggest economy in the whole world, havingovertaken the small but highly developed economies of UK, France, Germany and Japan. What were the stimulusfactors for this phenomenal growth and transformation of the Chinese economy and society? The stimulus factorswere the size of the Chinese population (1.3 billionpeople), the size of their land area (3 million squaremiles) and, of course, the dynamism as well as a richculture of their society. In other words, it was theabsence of political balkanization of the Chinese race ― both political and geographical Of course, political balkanization has got implications fordefence and strategic security or otherwise of theconcerned peoples.
China has now joined USA, Russia,and India as a space science country.
This enhances hercapacity of strategic security. Africa is totally lacking inthat area. The war technology gap that was pioneered in1337, when Edward III of England first used gun-powderagainst Scots, between Europe on the one hand andAfrica, Asia, the Americans as well as Austro-Asia on theother hand, has been widening ever more and more,particularly for the Africans that have remained stagnant.
Therefore, the foresight by the Lagos Action Plan, whichpointed out the need to be organized in the building blocsfor trade for different zones of Africa in order to tacklethis balkanization, was correct. Integration is one of themajor therapies for Africa which has been in decline since1785 BC when the Hyksos first invaded and conqueredEgypt, the African cradle of human civilization.
Integration should have two dimensions — economic and,where possible, also political integration. In East Africa,we are aiming at both-political and economicintegration.
The people of East Africa have, for decades, beenyearning for an East African Federation that would dealwith both political and economic integration. This is theultimate goal of EAC. There are those who ask thequestion: “Why EAC and COMESA? This is the answer.EAC intends to travel further because the peoples areeither similar or very compatible and are aiming at alsothe political integration, leading to the Federation of EA.COMESA, on the other hand, right from the beginning,aimed at economic integration because politicalintegration at the continental level is quite unrealistic. Trade, however, is not only realistic, but necessary. Thisis why Uganda never joined SADC when it was formed byour fellow freedom fighters that had been active in theanti-colonial struggle. We only saw those two dimensions –
the political and the economic. Since SADC did notmake the political integration dimension explicit, we didnot see the need to duplicate the trading arrangementmechanism. I am glad that now COMESA, EAC and SADCare engaged with one another under the tripartite efforts.COMESA has done well and will even do better. As youheard, the trade volumes among COMESA members areof the magnitude of US$ 18.8 billion. This will grow if wecould deal with infrastructure
the roads and therailways. I want to see a rail link with South Sudan, a raillink with Kisangani in Congo, a rail link with Gisenyi inRwanda and the up-grading of the East African Railwaysystem to a standard gauge. We need railway links withEthiopia and Somalia from Kenya.In the end, we need to conclude the agreement on theAfrican Common market. In 2077, the population of Africa will be three billion. We should create that unifiedtrading space for our grand children and great-grand children. A big market is not only good for giving ourproducers greater markets for their products (goods andservices). It is also good to enable us to negotiate withothers (USA, EU, China, Russia, India, South America, Japan, ASEAN, etc) for access to their markets. The Ugandans (Banyankore) say:
“Ija turye kumwe biriaine eki akurebireho” ― the one who invites you for ameal does so because he/she knows that you have gotcapacity to reciprocate. Indeed, from the Bible, in theGospel of St. Luke 8:18, it says: “…
For whoever has,more will be given to him; and whoever does not have,even what he thinks he has will be taken away fromhim
…” The one who has something will get more benefits. Inthis case, the stronger you are, the more you get. Weare, therefore, on the right road.
I thank you very much.