The Democratic Republic of Congo is the newest member of the East Africa Community after signing the Treaty of Accession on Friday, April 8.
In an event at State House, Nairobi, where regional leaders were hosted by Chairperson of the EAC Summit, President Uhuru Kenyatta, DRC officially joined the East African Community (EAC).
In attendance were Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Felix Tshisekedi, President of the DRC; EAC Council of Ministers Chairman, among others.
The historic event marks the formal entry of the DRC into the Community, having satisfied sections of the treaty.
“The signing of the treaty of accession by the Democratic Republic of Congo marks the formal entry into the East African Community, having satisfied the conditions set under Article Three (3) and Four (4) of our treaty, and following its admission during our virtual extraordinary summit held on March 29 this year.
“To get to this point, it has taken strong leadership and commitment to the ideals of the EAC integration agenda and a clear understanding of the shared benefits that come from working together,” said Kenyatta.
Section Two (2) of Article Three (3) of the treaty states: “The Partner States may, upon such terms and in such manner as they may determine, together negotiate with any foreign country the granting of membership to, or association of that country with, the Community or its participation in any of the activities of the Community.”
The entry of DRC now means portends growth in various sectors, and also increases the population to above 300 million. The combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will also rise to USD 250 Billion (Sh28.8 trillion).
“In welcoming the DRC to our community, we are opening wide the doors of opportunity and expanded trade and cooperation,” said President Kenyatta.
President Felix Tshisekedi, on his part, has assured the community that the DRC will play its role to make the region stronger and more prosperous.
“The DRC renews the commitment made on March 29, that is to work so that we can develop our community and especially through optimising the agro-economical activities in our countries and opportunities of cooperation that should be exploited for the wellbeing of our population,” he said.
DRC shares borders with five of the partner states – Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan.
Tshisekedi further noted that 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.
Seen as the key facilitator of DRC’s admission to the bloc, Kenya – which currently chairs the East African Community – has in recent days intensified its investment interests in the populous country, with the private sector deploying trade delegations to Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Goma and Mbuji Mayi.
Kenyan firms that have expressed interest in the DRC include Jubilee Insurance, Equity Bank and the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), which have started a plan to enter the country through the acquisition of an existing lender.
To cement the entry of the new nation, EAC Summit Chairman President Kenyatta and DRC’s Tshisekedi both appended their signatures to treaty documents, much to a fanfare and applause, before displaying the accession documents to guests at State House Nairobi and millions watching. The Chairman, shortly thereafter, gave a copy to EAC Secretary-General Dr. Peter Mathuki.