Talks between the East African Community (EAC) and the Federal Republic of Somalia for the latter to join the bloc have entered the home stretch.
The nine-day negotiations which bring together experts from seven EAC partner states began in earnest in Nairobi Tuesday.
The EAC secretariat, the East African Legislative Assembly, the East African Court of Justice, and their counterparts from the Federal Republic of Somalia are represented in the talks.
Cabinet Secretary for East African Community, ASALs and Regional Development, Rebecca Miano, said that negotiations between the EAC and Somalia were being held in accordance with a directive by the 22nd extraordinary summit to the secretariat and the Council to commence negotiations with Somalia.
She was speaking when she officially opened the negotiations at the main campus of the Kenya School of Government in Lower Kabete in Nairobi.
“These negotiations between EAC and Somalia are therefore being held in accordance with the directive of the Summit and the relevant legal framework of the Community.
The negotiations are expected to focus on political, legal and institutional, infrastructure, productive and social sectors and economic and trade affairs clusters among others.
The CS said that the EAC was keen on an expanded and vibrant bloc, with high volumes of trade within itself and other blocs.
“This, primarily, is because we intend to create wealth and prosperity for our people. A big and expanded market that the admission of Somalia will usher in will be a major boost for the private sector, itself a great milestone in the integration process,” said the CS.
“The community is already contributing to peace and security in Somalia with partner states providing troops as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia. The people of the rest of East Africa are eager to welcome their brothers and sisters from Somalia into the Community,” she added.
In his remarks, Somalia’s Minister for Planning, Mr Mohamud Farah, said the entry of Somalia into the EAC would be an excellent opportunity to take the integration process in East Africa to a new level, adding that his country was eager to join their brothers and sisters in Africa’s fastest integrating bloc.
Farah said that Somalia being part of the bloc would help to address the security challenges in the Horn of Africa, adding that the country’s entry into EAC would come with many benefits including a bigger market for goods produced in the region, improved infrastructure and investment opportunities.
Farah said that Somalia has many things to offer the bloc including a huge youthful population, vast natural resources and agricultural potential.
EAC Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki said that joining the community would enable Somalia to benefit from the EAC's regional infrastructure projects such as roads, railways and energy networks.
“These projects aim to improve connectivity, enhance transportation links, and boost regional trade, ultimately supporting Somalia's economic development and integration,” said Dr Mathuki.
“Somalia has the longest national coastline of over 3,000 kilometres in Africa, linking Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, which the region can tap into to increase intra-regional trade and improve the lives of East Africans,” he added.
He said that the coastline would bring immense benefits for the EAC through the exploitation of Somalia’s blue economy resources such as fish.
Dr Mathuki said that during the negotiations this week, the EAC Team would highlight to the Somali delegation, the benefits, obligations and commitments of partner states under the treaty which will be the basis for the negotiations in good faith by both Teams.
“The negotiations will also provide clarifications to both Teams on matters that were identified during the verifications exercise. I am very optimistic that at the end of this exercise, we will have a clear report for presentation to the next Summit for consideration,” he added.
Mathuki said that the heads of state would then make a decision on whether to admit Somalia into the Community.
“Somalia has the longest national coastline of over 3,000km in Africa, linking Africa to the Arabian Peninsula, which the region will tap into to increase intra-regional trade,” he added.
The EAC verification mission is being chaired by Mr. Tiri Marie Rose from Burundi while Dr. Adbusalam Omer, Special Envoy of Somalia, is the Lead Negotiator for the Federal Republic of Somalia.
Also present at the event was Somalia’s Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Abdisalam Sharif, among other dignitaries.