The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the newest member of the East African Community (EAC) increasing the community’s population by 46 per cent from 195 million to 285 million.
DRC will be the largest in the EAC bloc after Tanzania which has 947,000 square kilometres.
DRC’s admission was approved Wednesday during the 18th- Extra-Ordinary heads of state summit held virtually. The summit was themed “Deepening Integration, Widening Cooperation,” chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, received and considered the report of the Council of Ministers on the verification mission on the admission of the DRC to join the East African Community.
The summit directed the Council of Ministers to “expeditiously undertake a verification mission to the DRC in accordance with EAC procedures for admission of new members into the EAC and report to the 22nd summit (to be held in Arusha, Tanzania).”
“I want to appreciate you all for heading my call to make this important decision for our region and future trade,’’ President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
“A key plank of our deliberations today was progressing the aspirations of our brothers and sisters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to join with us in the East African Community. I consider this as a testament to not only the success of the East African Community but also the opportunities that remain untapped. This is also an affirmation of our efforts to deepen integration and widen cooperation as aptly captioned by the theme of this summit.”
President Kenyatta, who is the current Chairperson of the Summit, underscored the importance of the EAC integration process saying the community provides a strong platform for regional socio-economic transformation.
“…I re-affirm the commitment of the Summit to the EAC integration process. We are certainly sure that this is an effective vehicle for the economic development and prosperity of the people of East Africa,” President Kenyatta said.
While expressing satisfaction at the progress made towards greater regional solidarity and shared prosperity, President Kenyatta urged all member states to continue prioritizing the EAC agenda.
“Indeed, it is notable that work is progressing well in the implementation of the four pillars of EAC integration; namely the customs union, the common market, the monetary union and ultimately the political federation,” President Kenyatta noted.
— East African Community (@jumuiya) December 22, 2021
“Congo is really part of East Africa historically, especially the eastern part of Congo. They speak Swahili, they are similar to our tribes here. It is colonialism that had kept Congo,” Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said.
He also added that the purpose of integration falls under three pillars -prosperity, strategic security and people.
“Deepening regional integration will depend on improving the institutional efficiency and the cost-effectiveness of the East African Community. Rwanda stands ready to play its part,” President Paul Kagame of Rwanda emphasised.
On her part, President Samia Suluhu of Tanzania said, “On the readiness of DRC to join the community and we have given directives which will expedite the finalization of the remaining processes. We all know the importance of DRC joining our community. As all partner states have long and close cooperation by either bordering or having trade relationship which will enhance the prosperity of our people and the region.
Moreover, DRC is only joining her brothers and sisters. The United Republic of Tanzania continues to believe that our integration process should be rule-based and efforts should be made to ensure that all partner states adhere to the established rules procedures and processes.
We should also continue to encourage principles of collective bargaining in dealing with the agenda of the outside world particularly on matters of common interest.”
The Summit of EAC Heads of State at their 21st Ordinary Meeting held on February 27 had directed Ministers to expeditiously undertake a verification exercise in accordance with the EAC Criteria for Admission of Foreign States.
In terms of economic power, Charlie Robertson, Global chief economist and head of macro strategy at Renaissance Capital says in GDP terms though, DRC adds 23 per cent, pushing EAC up from $238billion to $294billion. Kenya was 28% of the old group, but will now be 19% after DRC joins, while Congo is nearly a third (31%) of the EAC combined population.
Kenya is still top. It was 46% of the East African Community (2021 GDP estimate) and becomes 37% with DRC joining. Kenya and Uganda together are half the economic size of the EAC after DRC joins.”