The just ended imbroglio between Kenya and Tanzania left a very important lesson for the region and beyond. I don’t need to repeat what transpired when Kenya banned Tanzania’s vehicles from accessing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). Tanzania reciprocated by reducing Kenya Airways’ trips to Dar Es Salaam from 42 to 14 a week. By whatever standards, the moves by two countries were totally counterproductive and economically suicidal. Thanks to the wisdom of two presidents of the respective countries the differences were ironed out timely and constructively. Now everything’s come back to normalcy. This is praiseworthy and good. Again, we need to learn the hard fact that we need one another, and shunning one another won’t do us good. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, “We need to learn to live together as brothers all die together as fools.” Are such fools really?
Secondly, we need to underscore the fact that our regional integration won’t succeed if country members cling unto their narrow views of the future. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere used to say that if African countries keep on thinking individually, surely they will be doomed. Our nationalities are nothing but colonial creation. To defeat colonial machinations we need to seek our true nationality that is African. Thirdly, selfishness and better-than- thou mentality must be avoided at all costs. Nobody is better than another and we all have what it takes when it comes to life. And above all, we need to cultivate the spirit of negotiating, mediating and compromising whenever differences (which are natural) surface before resulting into the shunning.
Looking at how poor, or struggling African economies are, one’d think that whatever encourages sound and equitable economic cooperation –at any level and degree –would be welcomed and promoted. I am wonder. Why should we start banning one another while we let, say, European or Chinese companies take away such opportunities we've already created among ourselves? We tend to blame colonizers for all of our miseries for no reasons sometimes. Instead of thinking about coming and commingle together, we’re easily falling prey to redundant divisions based on trivial matters. Conflict among human beings, countries, even animals is a normal thing and inevitable. Instead of using conflict destructively, we need to learn how to use it constructively so that we can forge ahead without harming our relationships and economies as the just ended kerfuffle behest us to do. Whenever conflict occurs it means to bring things on the fore so that they can be ironed out. So, whenever conflict occurs, first, we need to understand that it is unavoidable. Also, we must know that there is another way of using conflict productively to strengthen our relationships by resolving our differences healthily. Thirdly, we need to change our perspectives on how we view conflict. Essentially, conflict is neither good nor bad. What’s palpable is that badness or goodness depends on how we view and resolve it. Professionally speaking, whenever conflict occurs – if we view it critically and positively – it does create opportunities. What we need to do is search for such opportunities. For instance, the just ended glitch in the relationship between Kenya and Tanzania has proved how wise, cooperative and visionary our leaders can be. This is a good thing. Also, it just offered an opportunity for our leaders to view and deal with situation differently for the good of their countries.
One thing our leaders and people should accentuate is that when you do business together, apart from getting money , you create job opportunities for your people which helps to add up to your economies. So, too, cooperation in business motivates your people to work harder and creatively for not only the betterment of their lives and the economies of respective countries but also for the development of the region in general. Also, through trading among neighbouring countries, you reduce time and prices of services and goods that would have come from afar.
Let’s face it. We need to have economic sense of doing things based on the realities of today. Currently, China is an upcoming global force thanks to her clout in doing business with the world. We can’t improve the lives of our people by avoiding or ostracizing one another. This is why the total unification of East Africa – and ultimately Africa based on equality and equity –is sine quo non. We tend to blame our former colonial masters for exploiting us and dividing our continent. Again, who’s preventing us from reuniting her? The answer is obvious that narrow mindedness and selfishness are the cause whereby our leaders prefer to go solo so that they can remain the state houses instead of unifying the continent and have one president. I wonder. How much money do we spend hopelessly purchasing weapons for fear of our neighbours? How much would that monies do to Africa shall we reunite her? How much money do our people spend on visas that’d have been spent on other important things? It has become even more difficult for Africans to travel in Africa than doing so in Europe or America. Why’d it be likelier and easier, say, for Tanzania to create more jobs for Chinese through trading with China than doing so for Kenyans and vice versa?
Source: African Executive Magazine March 31, 2015.