At the end of last month, we were invited to sign an MOU with the East African Community (EAC) at the East African Community Investment Conference in Kampala. This was the follow-up to last November’s meeting in Arusha, Tanzania for the 10th Anniversary of the East African Community and Legislative Assembly (EALA). Lidet has been organizing this series of meetings, and helped schedule the week around this latest event.
There was a press conference and signing, with Matt, Lidet, Julia and Sam from OLPC Rwanda, the Secretary General of the EAC, the Speaker of the EALA, Ministers from several countries, parliamentarians from five countries, and Uganda’s Ministers of Education and Technology. Coverage of the event was extensive in Uganda, with some international coverage, and press questions were enthusiastic.
The seriousness of the EAC and EALA was striking. So often lip service is paid, promises to follow up are pledged, but at the end of the day, conversations slip away. But both the Speaker and the SG pledged to move quickly, spoke passionately about the future in education for East Africa, and discussed how to work with individual countries and with the EAC collectively. They also publicly stated olpc East Africa (30 million children) as a goal for 2015.
We discussed our collective commitment to East Africa. And we addressed different ways to find funding to achieve the stated objectives, including drafting a public letter to garner support for the initiative.
The progress in the region is moving swiftly forward. Lidet continues to build regional support from her office in Addis, and we are finding support both within the governments themselves, and with multilateral institutions that support the region. In terms of the countries themselves, we have already been invited back to the region later this year as a result of this MOU to discuss regional saturation projects.
Finally, an obvious point that bears repeating for anyone pursuing similar international work: there is nothing like having advocates on the ground. This trip lasted a bit longer than expected, but our week-long presence was an expediting factor in the immediate commitments we received, and the time spent in person with high-level officials — and the existence of two offices in the region — was invaluable.
Next in this series: Meeting with President Museveni, and next steps in Uganda