By XN Iraki In the last 10 years, economic growth in Kenya has averaged 3.8 per cent, Tanzania 6.1 per cent, Uganda 7.2 percent, Rwanda 7.5 per cent and Burundi 2 .5 per cent. The correspondent Gross Domestic Products (GDPs) in billions of dollars were as follows in 2008; Kenya 62.4, Tanzania 55, Uganda 41, Rwanda 9.9 and Burundi 3.2, according to data from the World Bank. Clearly, excluding Burundi, the other three East African countries have grown at almost double Kenya's rate. Looking at the size of the GDPs, Tanzania (TZ) is not far. It might not therefore be an exaggeration to suggest that some of these countries will soon catch up with Kenya economically, particularly Uganda and Tanzania. But what can Kenya do to maintain her lead, her competitive edge? A simple back of the envelope calculation shows that if things remain as they are, TZ will catch up with Kenya in about 6 years, UG in 14 years, Rwanda in about 50 years and Burundi much longer. Some could argue that is not an issue since Tanzania and Uganda are part of the East African Community (EAC) and any growth there will trickle down to Kenya because of demand for her exports. Others point out that part of these two countries' growth is Kenya's efforts through investment there. Whatever the truth, Kenya cannot afford to blunt her competitive edge. How are the other nations' competitiveness compared to Kenya? For Uganda (UG), the prospects of oil will buoy up her economic prospects, and, some suggest, self-confidence. She has more arable land and has learnt the hard lessons of misgovernance. The revival of Kingdoms was an ingenious way to disperse political emotions from the centre. Those who have been to Uganda appreciate it as a welcoming nation, unencumbered by attitudes. The country seems to appreciate the role of investors and entrepreneurs quite well. There are lots of parallels between the welcoming nature of Uganda and the US. American welcome is based on capitalism and economic prospects, Uganda's is more cultural; an "invisible force" makes you feel at home. Uganda's soft underbelly is political, the uncertainty beyond President Museveni whose longevity in power could coalesce the political dynamism needed to spur economic growth. For Tanzania, it is her mineral resources, availability of land and its strategic coastline. Most of Tanzanian resources are unexploited, and a huge potential remains. The legacy of ujamaa is a handicap in Tanzania's quest to grow her economy. However, Dr Julius Nyerere's ujamaa policy has a positive part. It unified the country and killed any political problem, a position that led to peace and stability and lots of respect in the international circles. So, TZ has only an economic problem to solve. While TZ has lots of economic potential, she must set herself free to be at ease with her neighbours particularly Kenya. I find myself more at home in UG than in TZ, though geographically TZ is closer. What of Kenya? Our advantage emanates from services, where Kenya seems to make up for her lack of minerals. This is based on her westernised, well-educated and confident workforce. Our neighbours interpret that confidence as arrogance. Our location with a coastline is also a strength, which we have not fully exploited. Despite our head start in services and position in the international arena, Kenya has not fully defined her economic and political strategic objectives, since we are too mired in our internal contradictions. While UG and TZ seem to have its "core owners," Kenya has none, with nationalism diluted by tribalism. This lack of nationalism has disallowed Kenya from taking advantage of her strategic location. Internecine quarrels among the elites have dampened national optimism, leading to the current political squabbles that help no one. Maybe a new order will end the political paralysis that holds the nation hostage to economic progress. Our dependency on the international community to sort out our domestic matters is injurious to the national psyche and self-confidence. Kenya is rich in ideas and skepticism, but poor in doers. We are sceptical about achieving a growth rate of 10 per cent towards achieving Vision 2030, yet at early 1970s, we reached a growth rate of 17 per cent. Where do we go from here? The revival of the East African Community was the best thing that has happened to the region in the last 50 years. We can always ask where we would be if the East African Community (EAC) had not collapsed. Through it, we can bargain better in international trade, and attract more investors and tourists. However, my position is that the EAC would be more vibrant and progressive if we start focusing on our common strengths, which are regional based. Regions have competitive advantages that need to be reinforced. If we try to do everything, we end up doing nothing. The EAC should move together, united by her common heritage from Swahili to low standards of living. Why can't EAC finally become the Swahili Republic? EAC needs some branding. By allowing free movement of people, goods and services, we can unlock the economic potential of East Africans, before calling outsiders to supplement us. Domestic investors might have a bigger stake and deeper roots than foreign investors. By roping in Rwanda and Burundi, the EAC showed the world they are serious. They should bring in more countries. I have DR Congo, Somali and Ethiopia. Maybe that could pacify Somali faster? We cannot afford to be left behind as the rest of the World forms trading blocs and economic communities that could lock us out of great fortunes. Kenya should lead the way, by being more global in her economic and political perspectives, and not injuring herself with age-old tribal feuds that belong to a bygone age. Kenya should prove her economic leadership in this region by growing faster, and pulling her EAC partners along. That is what it means to be an engine of economic growth. Clearly, the 130 million citizens of the EAC deserve better economic prospects-in their lifetime. http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000004554&cid=497&story=Will%20Uganda%20and%20Tanzania%E2%80%99s%20rebounding%20economies%20soon%20overtake%20Kenya%E2%80%99s?