DRC applies for admission to EAC – Why does it Matter to Kenyans?
The Democratic Republic of Congo has formally applied for admission to the East African Community (EAC) six-member. DRC, the former French colony with vast natural resource- beautiful flora and fauna, home of the Lingala and mineral rich central African country is seeking to join the regional bloc after various behind-the-scenes rapprochements.
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi this week formally wrote to the Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame, who is the current chairman of the EAC, seeking to join the Community.The desire for the recently elected government of President Tshisekedi is to work together with its fellow neighbours for the development of our respective countries and stabilise this part of Africa. This request follows the ever-increasing trade between the economic players of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and those of the states of the Community.
The President has been on a charm offensive in EAC (whose member countries are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan) since he assumed office in January this year as he seeks to secure and boost ties. He has so far been to Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda for official visits and is currently in Tanzania. Historically, DRC has been isolated economically due to its narrow western coastline, yet it has a vast mineral rich Eastern Congo that heavily relies on the East African ports for trade.
The AU through its envoy Kenya’s former prime minister Raila Odinga (Special Envoy for Infrastructure and Development) has been pushing for open borders, link roads and other shared infrastructure as a way to bring stability and dissuade communities from taking up arms. In January, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga took part in the inauguration of President Tshisekedi, being the only Head of state at the function. Kenya had keen interest in the Congolese elections as the East African economic powerhouse aims to make Nairobi a trade hub.
A warm relationship with the mineral rich nation cannot come at a better time, with Uhuru targeting to raise the ties to greater heights.
Business-wise, 2018 was a landmark chapter in Africa’s regional integration efforts and this application by the DRC is testament to that. The launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Single African Air Transport Market are major milestones in the creation of a regulatory environment that promotes air connectivity and makes it faster, less expensive and easier for Africans to travel within Africa. With the East African passport, despite a hiccup earlier in the year, it is being taken to chance that it will unite all these nations in one solid trade unit.
In the 3rd edition of the Africa Visa Openness Index Report 2018 published by the African Development Bank and the Africa Union Commission, the findings shows that on average, African countries are becoming more open to each other. The top 20 most visa-open countries continue to improve their average score, reflecting the countries’ more liberal visa policies.
East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi) is attracting the attention of the world due to the immense potential that the region holds. The Africa rising story cannot be told without emphasis on East Africa’s importance. The region has produced some of the world’s fastest growing economies. The region has in the recent past, made tremendous progress under key development indicators. Kenya has one the most educated and skilled workforce in Africa, as a result, most investors have already set up their hubs here. The growing middle class at 22.6% of the population and an addition of the populations in DRC, South Sudan and Somalia makes the EAC an enviable market.
For instance, Kenya is making every effort to improve its governance, while Tanzania is pushing for free and fair elections; Uganda is boosting its infrastructure. At this rate, regional integration is seen as a necessary and inevitable choice for the countries involved. Economically, the region is on a steady growth path. According to the EU commission, GDP Growth in EA stood at 6.5% in 2014. The 2015 projection was 6.8% which it failed to reach only because of civil unrest in Burundi. The region is dedicated to development of infrastructure while the Foreign Direct Investment is at an all time high reaching record levels. East Africa currently holds higher ROI than most developed economies in the world.
The move by DRC is welcome and looking at this the report on Tanzanian Tourism Sector Review, you will soon see how well Kenyans will be all over DRC just like in Tanzania. There are vast investment opportunities in this countries and we Kenyans have a head-start with it.
South Sudan was the latest entrant to the EAC, becoming the sixth member in 2016.
Somalia’s application for admission was frozen due to instability in the country.