The 7th IREN Eastern Africa Thought Leaders Forum

Published on 25th July 2017

Theme: The Liberal Economic Order and One Belt One Road: Scenarios for East Africa in 2025

Date: August 23-26, 2017 

Venue: Arusha 

The current dominant international order is a product of two projects dating back to 1648. According to G. John Ikenberry (The Future of the Liberal World Order) today’s order is a product of 1648 Peace of Westphalia and a two centuries old construction of the United Kingdom and the United States of America liberal order. While the Westphalia project aimed at the creation and expansion of a modern state system, the liberal project aimed at open rule based international order. The international liberal order (from which the Liberal Economic Order stems from) embraces a vision of an open trading system and a global organization in which the great powers would cooperate to keep the peace through the United Nations. 

The ideal Liberal Economic Order (LEO) is characterized by an open trading system, a stable international monetary system and unrestricted capital movement. For a long time, the Liberal Economic Order espousing the virtues of free markets and small, regulatory states has been on play, especially in Africa albeit through Western donor conditionality. Lately, China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) economic agenda by which the two ends of Eurasia, as well as Africa and Oceania, will be more closely tied along two trading routes–one overland and one maritime through new infrastructure and economic aid is in progress and is likely to upset existing templates in the region.

It is obvious to Africa that the ideal LEO system is not in place. Furthermore, its design never involved Africans. While the LEO championed by Western countries often characterizes Africa as a continent of despair and disappointment, the OBOR is optimistic and sees the continent as an economic dynamo and zone of opportunity. 

East Africa has become the entry point of OBOR through mega projects such as the Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya and planned harbor in Bagamoyo Tanzania. Even before the OBOR takes off, the East Africa region is reporting declined manufacturing capability as the might of Chinese goods check in. Are LEO and OBOR any different in terms of outcomes for the East Africa region? How will OBOR impact the region’s economic and political scenarios? What are the threats and opportunities of the LEO and OBOR convergence in the region? The Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) dedicates its 7th Eastern Africa Thought Leaders Forum to explore these issues. 


The Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) initiated The Eastern Africa Thought Leader Forum in August 2011. The main purpose of this forum is to identify strategies that enable East Africans to organically evolve own political and socio economic systems; identify key approaches to address recurring threats in East Africa and to nurture futuristic thinkers in the region.

Previous forums focused on how East Africans can position themselves to benefit from the Cape to Cairo Free Trade Zone; Essential elements for African leadership in the Global Jungle; African Indigenous Games of Strategy and Africa’s Core Interests: How to make Africans’ Dreams Valid, Leadership in Africa in the 21st Century: What Role for Intellectuals?

The forum is open to Economists, Political Scientists, Regional Foreign Affairs Institutions, Think Tanks, Research Institutions, Government Planning Institutions, Regional Planners, Market Advocates and Analysts, Geopolitical Commentators, East Africa Science and Technology Institutions, Regional Industrialists and Policy Strategists, Development Banks.

The Format

Day 1: The International Liberal Economic Order: Key Assumptions, Structured 


          One Belt One Road: Key Assumptions, Structured Brainstorming.

          East Africa History: Structured Brainstorming.

Day 2: What are the East Africa Scenarios 2025?

          What Scenario Narrative do we take home?

How to Participate at the 7th IREN Thought Leader Forum

Interested participants should send a brief profile to [email protected] by July 30, 2017

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