The Democratic Republic of Congo has been granted the green light by the Council of Ministers to join the East African Community (EAC) as the seventh member state.
The EAC Council of Ministers, chaired by Kenya’s EAC Affairs and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed, gave the nod during an extraordinary meeting on Monday, November 22, in Arusha, Tanzania.
“The Summit of EAC Heads of State at their 21st Ordinary Meeting held on 27th February 2021, directed the EAC Council of Ministers to expeditiously undertake a verification exercise in accordance with the EAC Criteria for Admission of Foreign States,” the council said.
An EAC team visited DRC from June 26 to July 5 to verify the country’s level of conformity to the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC.
“DRC shares borders with five of the EAC Partner States; namely Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan,” says the report tabled by the Council of Ministers.
“There is a sense of belonging and attachment to EAC socially, economically, historically, culturally and geographically.”
The report observed, among other things, the institutional and legal frameworks, policies, projects and programmes, areas of cooperation with the other EAC Partner States and DRC’s expectations from her membership to the Community.
The final decision will now be made by the EAC Heads of State at a summit to be held later.
With the onset of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the development of infrastructure in DRC will facilitate connectivity of the East to the Atlantic Coast and Southern Africa to northern and West Africa.
Plans are also underway to connect the Burundi railway network with DRC’s, a decision that will provide an opportunity for increasing access to both DRC and EAC markets. This could reduce the cost of intra-regional trade.
In attendance at the meeting were Uganda’s East African Affairs minister Rebecca Kadaga, Tanzania Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation minister Liberata Mulamula, and Burundi’s Foreign Affairs minister Ezéchiel Nibigira.
Kenya’s Mohamed, South Sudan EAC minister Deng Alor Kuol, and Rwanda’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Manasseh Nshuti joined the meeting virtually.
Dr Alice Yalla, the Chairperson of the DRC Verification Mission, was also in attendance.