Congo’s admission into EA bloc a big boost for regional trade: Desai

Former EAC and Regional Development CS Adan Mohamed, EAC Secretary-General Peter Mutuku Mathuki (C) and DRC Deputy Premier Christophe Lutundula Apala launch the sixth EAC development strategy. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

The admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the East African Community will create a real value proposition, huge market and opportunities for the region.

Principal Secretary for East African Community (EAC) and Regional Development Kevit Desai said DRC would play a key role in linking the region through port usage at the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

In an interview with The Standard recently, Mr Desai said DRC would offer an opportune moment for East African citizens to utilise visa tourism and explore the famous forests of Congo under the free trade and movement policy.

“DRC is rich in mineral resources and Kenya is well known for its manufacturing ability. This is, therefore, a great opportunity for value addition and diversification,” he said.

Last December, the East African Heads of State summit directed the Council of Ministers to conclude the admission of the DRC to EAC.

The ministers in charge of East African affairs recommended the commencement of the admission of DRC into EAC during the 44th Extra-Ordinary meeting on November 22.

The report considered among other things, the institutional frameworks in place, legal frameworks, policies, projects and programmes, areas of cooperation with other EAC member States and DRC’s expectations from her membership to the bloc, as some of the areas on why it was a good fit for EAC.

“By DRC joining, the community will open the corridor from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as North to South, hence expanding the economic potential of the region,” EAC Secretary-General Peter Mathuki said.

The DRC applied to join the EAC in June 2019 and if approved, it would give the regional trade bloc its first port on the African west coast and boost regional trade.

DRC Deputy Premier Christophe Lutundula Apala speaks during the launch of the sixth EAC development strategy. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

“Kenyan exports increased by 12per cent to Sh257 billion in last year. Currently, EAC has a population of about 175 million people with 15 per cent intra-trade. DRC has 100 million people,” said Desai.

Its admission would make EAC one of the populous regions while creating a huge market to boost growth. He said regional trade industry and services depend on large markets adding that EAC appreciates diversity and brotherhood.

“The ability to set standards to do with immigration or firearms control requires that we push ahead and be a source of hope to those who are agitated and still challenged,” he said.

Desai told The Standard that the African Union’s support structure would help DRC integrate seamlessly within the EAC.

He said the EAC had cleared 1,500 tariff lines under rules of origin in the Africa Free Trade Area which is at 77 per cent, noting that the remaining 13 will be implemented before the end of the month.

Desai said although instability in the Horn of Africa region was a threat to EAC, dialogue, collaboration and intelligence sharing had boosted regional stability.

He said EAC was committed to the capacity building of member States and information sharing on key areas such as peace and terrorism.

Desai acknowledged that EAC political leaders had always agreed on ways to create opportunities for its citizens. He said political confederations would be a game-changer. “In this year member states are expected to build consensus at grassroots towards a common constitution for the region,” he said.

He added that there already existed borderless systems and common markets with values of interdependencies in the industry sector. “We already have standardised hospital curriculum, other institutions and centres of excellence. This is a sign that by nature we are working towards that partnership,” said Desai. ?

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