EAC presidents unanimously agree to admit DRC as member
The East African Community (EAC) heads of states unanimously voted to admit the Democratic Republic of Congo into EAC.
This follows a preliminary discussion about the DRC’s application at a summit on February 27, 2021.
In an extraordinary meeting convened by seven heads of states directed the council of ministers to commence and conclude negotiations with the DRC for admission to EAC and report to the next summit.
If confirmed officially, DRC will become the seventh member state of EAC after the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Uganda.
Ahead of the decision to admit the DRC, EAC member states; Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, have been signing agreements with DRC President Felix Tshisekedi aimed at boosting trade and improving security in the eastern DRC.
In June, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and Tshisekedi launched cross-border infrastructure projects. Uganda has also deployed troops to eastern DRC.
During the same period, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and Tshisekedi visited each other and signed agreements to promote investment, mining and elimination of double taxation.
In April, Kenya signed agreements with DRC to boost trade, security and transport. Kenya also offered to open diplomatic outposts in Goma and Lubumbashi.
Last year, Tanzania opened a new port on Lake Tanganyika with a railway link to Lubumbashi, which it hopes will attract more of eastern DRC sea-route imports.
Kenya Exports to Congo was Ksh.15.1 billion 2020, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.
Tobacco, iron and steel toped Kenya’s exports to DRC at Ksh.2.9 billio and Ksh.1.9 billion respectively in 2020.
With a population of almost 90 million people, the DRC has a large market with statistics from Comtrade showing that EAC countries exported goods worth Ksh.96.6 billion to the DRC in 2018.
However, a report published in June 2020 by the East African Business Council revealed that despite its geographic proximity, the EAC’s trade with the DRC is surprisingly very low. Over the last seven years, the proportion of EAC exports to the DRC has averaged 13.5 percent of the country’s total imports bill.
Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries such as South Africa and Zambia have captured a big share of the DRC’s market, the report said. South Africa exported goods worth Ksh.113 billion while Zambia exported goods worth Ksh.97.8 billion in 2019.
The DRC’s application to join the EAC is a signal to businesses in the EAC to strategically and operationally prepare to tap into the lucrative DRC market.