How do you see the monetary union affecting the Tanzanian economy in the long term?
We feel it will be a positive influence in the sense that it gives you discipline. Once a country ties itself to a monetary union, with related macroeconomic benchmarks, you simply cannot afford not to be efficient. It involves a degree of sovereignty transfer, in terms of running your monetary and economy policy, to the East African Central bank to be formed. The current central banks will essentially become agencies of the main bank. All economic statistics will be monitored to assure efficient performance, and we are ready for that challenge. Firstly, we have cheap power that will if anything become cheaper yet, once we adopt natural gas as the main power source. Currently, we are the only nation on a 15 American cents per unit price of power; most others are on 17 or 18 cents. We should, therefore, be selling power to the rest of the region, rather than the more traditional fruit, grains and coffee. An economy becomes more competitive, not only in terms of exports, but also in terms of its own industry. A 5% drop in electricity costs can work wonders for a textile factory employing 3,000 people, making for a wholly different bottom line print. We feel we will be one of the stronger economies in the East African Community (EAC) because of the various resources that can be utilized to make life much easier for everybody.
What EAC projects will be considered a priority for 2015?
Universal power connectivity is our main objective, and will allow the grid to address supply deficit in one specific area by leveraging the entire grid. Meanwhile, the improvement of ports, railway lines, roads, and airports will be critical for trade and tourism. This would pay dividends in terms of making East Africa one consolidated destination for tourists. The other thing we are working on is telecommunications, as we are not quite integrated at this stage. The service providers are well-known brands, such as Vodafone, so there is no reason why we should not integrate this, and make it much easier to communicate with each other across borders. We are also working on a tripartite free trade area between COMESA, the EAC, and SADC. It is going to be the largest free trade area in Africa, reaching from Cape Town to Cairo, and will encompass more than half of the African population.
What would the full economic and political integration of the EAC mean for the long-term development of Tanzania and East Africa?
We feel that once we reach full integration, and for us that means a federation of the states of East Africa, one of the greatest dividends would be regional peace. Countries such as Tanzania, which have achieved peace and stability for a long time, can guide the rest. You would no longer, say, see an insurrection in Rwanda, as all neighbors would then rally as one federated state. In that sense you avoid a situation whereby groups want to cause unrest through another member state; it would be just one sovereign country. Therefore, we feel we can achieve peace throughout the territory. Secondly, there are tangible economic benefits. Take, for example, integration and the single currency; this is something that will create financial and economic discipline and render East Africa an attractive address for investors.