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East Africa Strategic Horizons: Partnerships and Priorities

Wednesday 13 – Friday 15 March 2024


In association with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

This report comes at a time of significant geopolitical and regional change across East Africa. The East Africa Strategic Horizons exchange held at Wilton Park in March 2024, summarized in this report, sought to make sense of these seismic shifts, and to provide recommendations for future engagement and planning derived from evidence-based assessments of the trajectory of the region to 2030.

Bringing together experts from civil society, policy, international organizations and academia, this meeting considered plausible futures for East Africa through the prisms of conflict, climate change, and trade, in a transforming global context. This the beginning of an ongoing to discussion to support stakeholders in adopting more proactive and collaborative approaches to addressing systemic challenges, managing multiple acute crises, and providing pathways to sustainable development and regional stability.

Key Themes

The need for sustained international attention and resources for crises in East Africa: There is a need to move beyond reactive responses to crises and towards the development of sustained attention and resourcing to address, and get ahead of, the challenges facing the region.

The increasing complexity of conflict dynamics: Conflicts within East Africa are increasingly fragmented and regionalized, challenging traditional conflict resolution mechanisms. The emergence of ‘middle powers’, such as the Gulf states, shifts traditional power dynamics and necessitates a recalibration of strategic approaches.

Towards an agenda of ‘mini-multilateralism’: In the context of the rising complexity of regional crises, concerns persist regarding the capacity of regional organizations such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the East African Community (EAC) to intervene in these crises alongside multilateral organizations such as the United Nations. There is a need for reforms tailored to East Africa’s unique challenges and opportunities which engage in more agile, context-sensitive policy and programming. Deepening localization is an important, and often overlooked, requirement of these reforms.

Climate change as a cross-cutting issue: East Africa faces cascading climate-related challenges, including food insecurity, disease outbreaks, displacement, migration, and conflict. This underscores the urgency of comprehensive climate resilience strategies. The region grapples with limited space for resilience-building efforts amidst persistent crises, necessitating innovative solutions and proactive measures. East Africa must prioritize dedicated climate financing separate from development funding to address the unique challenges posed by climate change in the region.

Safeguarding humanitarian access: Norms surrounding humanitarian access are under threat in East Africa and in the wider global landscape, necessitating concerted efforts to uphold humanitarian principles and ensure access to vulnerable populations.

Promoting South-South trade and trade integration: Facilitating South-South trade partnerships can unlock economic opportunities and foster mutual development among East African countries and other emerging economies. East Africa must prioritize comprehensive trade integration efforts beyond the removal of barriers to foster sustainable economic growth and regional cooperation.



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