The addition of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the East African Community will create a real value proposition, huge market and opportunity for the region.
Chief Secretary for East African Community (EAC) and Regional Development Kevit Desai said DRC will play a key role in connecting the region through the use of ports on the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean.
In conversation with The standard Recently, Mr. Desai said that the DRC would provide an opportune moment for East African citizens to take advantage of visa tourism and explore Congo’s famous forests under free trade and free movement policies.
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo is rich in natural resources and Kenya is known for its manufacturing capabilities. This is therefore a great opportunity for value creation and diversification,” he said.
Last December, the Summit of East African Heads of State instructed the Council of Ministers to finalize the admission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the EAC.
Ministers responsible for East African affairs recommended starting the admission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the EAC during the 44th extraordinary meeting on 22 November.
The report considered the existing institutional framework, legal framework, policies, projects and programs, areas of cooperation with other EAC member states and DRC’s expectations of its membership in the bloc, among others, as some of the reasons why it is a good fit for EAC.
“With the accession of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Community will open the corridor from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and from North to South, thus expanding the economic potential of the region,” said EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki.
The DRC applied to join the EAC in June 2019 and, if approved, would give the regional trading bloc its first port on Africa’s west coast and boost regional trade.
“Kenyan exports grew 12 percent last year to Sh257 billion. Currently, EAC has a population of approximately 175 million people with 15 percent intra-commerce. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a population of 100 million,” said Desai.
Its inclusion would make EAC one of the most populous regions while creating a huge market to fuel growth. He said regional trade industries and services depend on large markets, adding that EAC values diversity and brotherhood.
“The ability to set standards related to immigration or firearms control requires that we move forward and be a source of hope for those who are excited and still challenged,” he said.
Desai told The Standard that the African Union support structure would help the DRC integrate seamlessly with the EAC.
He said the EAC had released 1,500 tariff lines under rules of origin in the African Free Trade Area, accounting for 77 percent, noting that the remaining 13 will be implemented before the end of the month.
Desai said although instability in the Horn of Africa region posed a threat to the EAC, dialogue, cooperation and information-sharing had strengthened regional stability.
He said the EAC works to build member states’ capacity and share information on key areas such as peace and terrorism.
Desai acknowledged that EAC political leaders have always agreed to create opportunities for their citizens. He said political confederations would change the game. “This year, member states are expected to reach a grassroots consensus on a common constitution for the region,” he said.
He added that there are already borderless systems and common markets with interdependencies in the industrial sector. “We already have a standardized hospital curriculum, other institutions and centers of excellence. This is a sign that we are inherently working towards this partnership,” said Desai. ?