The East African Community (EAC) stands to gain at least Sh26 billion in foreign exchange earnings in the medium term as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) joins the economic bloc.
EAC Heads of State yesterday adopted a report recommending DRC's admission to the economic bloc in a significant development expected to boost trade and expand the regional gross domestic product by billions of shillings.
“Admitting DRC into EAC is historic for our community and the African continent at large," said President Uhuru Kenyatta, current chairman of the EAC Heads of States Summit.
"It demonstrates the agility of the community to expand beyond its socio-cultural boundaries to new people and trade-centered partnerships and collaboration, thus increasing trade and investment opportunities for the citizens."
President Kenyatta is expected to formally sign the Treaty of Accession by April 14, 2022 ,which will formally admit the DRC. The country's parliament is then expected to ratify the decision by September this year.
This is the first time the EAC is admitting a new member following that of South Sudan in 2016.
"This is an incredible transformation, not only in the context of East Africa but also in the continental and world standard," said EAC Principal Secretary Dr Kevit Desai.
"With DRC as the seventh partner state, you are looking at approximately 295 million people within the EAC, making it the fourth most populous region in the world after China, India and the US."
DRC imports majority of its products, with South Africa and China accounting for almost half.
Data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, (KNBS) indicates that Kenya's exports to the DRC stood at Sh14.2 billion in 2020, a five per cent increase from Sh13.4 billion the previous year.
This was higher than exports to South Africa and Ethiopia combined.
The EAC is banking on its proximity and common market to increase its trade with DRC from 15 per cent to 25 per cent.
Rwanda stands to benefit the most and is looking at Sh9.1 billion in trade opportunities with DRC in the medium term, according to data from Kenya's Ministry of EAC.
Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya are estimated to earn Sh6.8 billion, Sh5.6 billion and Sh4.8 billion respectively over the same period of time.
"This is just in the preliminary stage and through joint ventures and greater co-operation, we see this almost doubling to a 50 per cent GDP growth," said Dr Desai.
In 2019, DRC imported Sh58 billion worth of foodstuff, a third of which was sourced from Zambia that does not enjoy any geographical advantage over EAC member states.
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni said DRC joining the community was a significant development, one that he had personally been waiting for in the last 60 years.
“DRC has strong historical, social and cultural links with EAC partner states," he said. "It is the onus of the EAC to now work on restoring peace and stability in Eastern DRC, a fete we can achieve by working together.”
DRC President Felix Tshisekedi welcomed the admission, terming it a historical day for the country and an opportunity to harmonise the country’s policies with those of the EAC.
“It is the desire of DRC to see the creation of a new organ in the EAC that is solely focused on mining, natural resources and energy that will be based in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo,” he said.
President Tshishekedi said DRC was looking forward to increased intra-EAC trade and reduction of tension amongst the partner states.