Talks to have DRC join regional trading bloc enters homestretch

EAC and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Negotiations to have the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) admitted into the East African Community (EAC) by end of this month kicked off yesterday with calls on stakeholders to expedite the process.

The negotiations, which are being held at a Nairobi hotel will employ ‘tough love’ as described by EAC and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed on existing issues and opportunities.

Mr Mohamed, who officiated the launch of the negotiations said the addition of DRC into the EAC embodies the continent’s agenda to unite all African countries.

“The initial steps have been taken through the birth of the African Continental Free Trade Area (Afcta),” said Mohamed.

He said the sought after outcome is to break historical barriers and maximise the continent’s trade potential, which has long been under-leveraged.

He lauded the progress made within the EAC on cross-border movement - where one does not need a passport to enter a partner nation as long as he has an identity card.

Mr Mohamed said the same is being worked on for tourists who will only need to apply for a single visa to travel to any of the EAC nations.

 The cabinet secretary said DRC joining the regional trading bloc is long overdue since the country has a lot in common with the rest of EAC, including its utilisation of the Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports.

DRC will be the seventh nation joining the EAC with Somalia expected to follow suit. “We cannot control the pace of those members who need to join,” said Mohamed.

A report from the negotiations is expected to be submitted to the Council of Ministers in the region who will forward it to the Head of States for consideration for DRC to be admitted to the community.

“All this must happen between now and at the end of January,” said EAC Secretary-General Peter Mathuki.

Mr Mathuki said the February target follows the directive of the heads of State of the EAC nations, following their meeting end of December 2021.

“We expect this process will be seamless for the betterment of our people,” he said.

DRC Vice Prime Minister who doubles as Foreign Affairs Minister Christophe Lutundula said his country is not joining the table empty-handed, citing investments in energy, agriculture, human and natural resources.