(Posted 29th March 2022)
Earlier today did Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announce the joining of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the East African Community, widening the bloc’s membership to now seven and expanding the geographical reach from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the South Atlantic Ocean.
The announcement came at the end of the the 19th Extra-Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State and Government which was held virtually and chaired by Kenya.
Welcoming the new member to the EAC, President Kenyatta termed the admission of DRC into the EAC a historic event that demonstrates the agility of the community to expand beyond its socio-cultural boundaries to new people and trade centred partnerships and collaboration that will expand opportunities for citizens of the region.
“Today as chairman of the EAC, I proudly and warmly welcome our brothers and sisters from the DRC to the EAC and look forward to joining hands in strengthening our community together. Working together, we have more to gain than when we are separate. Indeed, the combined population and GDP of our community will grow by 50 percent and 25 percent respectively, implying a corresponding expansion of the market for goods and services. These numbers imply expanded market opportunities for producers located within EAC under the Customs Union” President Kenyatta said.
The President added that the expanded community will attract more investments across all sectors, a move that will create more wealth and employment for the people.
He pointed out that with the inclusion of DRC, the EAC will be in a better position to combine resources to develop the much-needed infrastructure, especially the main transit corridors running from east to west.
“The said infrastructure is crucial in facilitating cross-border movements of goods, people and physical capital as envisaged in the EAC Common Market,” the President added.
With a larger market of about 300 million people, President Kenyatta expressed optimism that the community will achieve better outcomes brought about by the economies of scale and pooling of productive human and financial resources.
Speaking during the summit, other East African leaders commended President Felix Tshisekedi of DRC for working hard to ensure his country joined the community noting that the action he took is not only beneficial to his country but the region at large.
Leaders who included Presidents Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Samia Suluhu (Tanzania) thanked the EAC Council of Ministers and the Secretariat for speeding up the process that led to the admission of DRC into the community.
“The joining of East Africa Community by DRC is an event of great significance. I have been involved in these efforts for almost 60 years and this is really very pleasant that DRC has finally reconnected formally with EAC” said President Museveni.
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu said the decision by President Tshisekedi to seek admission for his country into the EAC will provide an opportunity to entrench peace and security in DRC.
“To my brother Felix Tshisekedi, I commend you for the decision to seek admission to the EAC. And to the people of DRC your country’s decision to join EAC will accord you a great opportunity to extend space for peace and security, prosperity and solidarity within your country as well as the region” she said.
In his inaugural speech at the EAC summit, President Tshisekedi thanked the EAC leaders for welcoming him to the community and assured of his commitment to working closely with them for the development and prosperity of the region.
President Évariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi was represented at the summit by Vice President Prosper Bazombanza while President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan was represented by Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin.
The summit designated President Kenyatta, the EAC Chairman, to sign the treaty of accession of DRC into the EAC by April 14th this year.
Following this latest expansion of the East African Community is it now also expected that both Ethiopia and Somalia make a renewed push for membership after both countries have in the past expressed their interest in joining the community.