Uganda-DR Congo - EAC

What benefit as EAC accepts DRC membership?

APA-Kampala (Uganda)

As the Democratic Republic of Congo becomes the East African Community's seventh member, questions are being asked in relation to what the region as a whole and this vast country stand to benefit from its new membership.

At a session in Arusha, D.R Congo was on Tuesday admitted into the EAC fold which consists of South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.

These countries with the exception of Burundi and to some extent Rwanda are largely English-speaking members of the bloc but observers say the admission of Francophone D.R Congo as a member, tips the scale slightly in favour of more linguistic diversity.

They say it will add more "French-speaking flavour" to the cultural diversity of this organisation covering a region of over 183 million people according to a 2019 estimate.

In fact in February this year, French like English and Swahili became an official language of the EAC.

D.R Congo's population is close to 100 million and this in economic terms brings a huge significance into the EAC demographics of trade, diplomacy and population which is just shy of 300 million people following the admission of its newest member.

The EAC assumed a new lease of life on July 7th 2000 after being in the doldrums from 1977 right through the 1980s and 90s and its instruments facilitating the free movement of peoples and goods in the region since the turn of the century have increased trade volumes in this area of 2,467,202 km2 with $ 602.584 billion in GDP according to a 2020 estimate.  

Being a landlocked country D.R Congo's ambition had always been to gain direct or indirect access to the oceans especially the Atlantic and its admission to the EAC guarantees this.

The driving factor behind D.R Congo's application for membership in 2019 was to expand its trade tentacles in the region but the economic benefits of this to other members of the EAC informs their decision to accept what would be one of the most important economies in the area.

There are regular queues at border crossings between DR. Congo and other EAC members and this means the clearing of goods and services is never easy, simple and straightforward for traders on both sides.

DR. Congo will be entitled to reduced tariffs for its imported goods and services which pass through the Kenyan port of Mombasa and the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Businesses condemned to run the gauntlet on the border have been celebrating D.R Congo's membership, hoping that this impediment to trade will disappear once the country takes its place as a fully-fledged member of the East African Community which was set up in 1967.

After its admission it is left with the Congolese parliament to ratify the EAC's raft of legislation and regulations before they can begin to be applied with any far-reaching effect.

Ratifying them will in a short time remove visas as a requirement for Congolese citizens planning trips to EAC member countries.

But Congolese citizens may have to exercise patience to get the modalities for this sorted out in the course of a few months before they will begin to reap the benefits guaranteed by full membership. 

A case in point in the delayed course of reaping these benefits is South Sudan's membership which came four months after it was admitted to the organisation.

WN/as/APA

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