Somalia's charm offensive fuels talk of admission to EAC

President Uhuru Kenyatta met his Federal Republic of Somalia counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud during his first official visit to Kenya at State House, Nairobi on July 15, 2022. [PSCU, Standard]

Somalia could be the next country to join the East Africa Community (EAC) after the recent admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the regional bloc.

Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud was a surprise guest at this week's East Africa Heads of Summit in Arusha, Tanzania, fuelling speculation Somali's admission to the bloc could be on the cards.

President Mohamud, who was re-elected last month after being voted out in 2017, met his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi earlier this week for bilateral talks in what is seen as a thawing of relations between the two countries.

President Mohamud sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice in 2014 in a protracted maritime border row between the two countries. 

And following his re-election, the two countries have given the strongest indication yet that they could resume the multimillion-shilling miraa (khat) trade.

Ironically, it is President Mohamud who banned the trade in his first term.

EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki at a press conference on Thursday in Arusha said Somalia was invited to the high-level meeting as a show of good faith in what could lay the grounds for its admission to the bloc.

Without divulging more details, Mr Mathuki said EAC "does not mind admitting another member to the trade bloc."

Somalia's push to join EAC last year did not materialise. With a population of about 16.8 million, Somalia's addition to the bloc would create a market of about 317 million people.

This is at a time when the bloc has stepped up efforts to raise trade among member States. DRC's admission to the bloc was finalised earlier this month ahead of the Heads of State Summit.

This has helped boost the bloc’s aggregate Gross Domestic Product (GDP), edging out the dominance of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

Kenya has been the chair of EAC, with this week's summit being President Kenyatta's last ahead of next month's polls. He handed over to Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye.

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