It is all joy in East Africa today but most especially for DRC. DRC has officially joined the EAC after the heads of state approved its admission into the bloc at a summit today. However not much change is expected to change right away since lawmakers in Congo are yet to ratify the EAC laws and regulations before they come into effect which is expected to take some time.
DR Congo applied for EAC membership in 2019, hoping to improve trade and political ties with its East African neighbors.
Many in the region expect an ease in movement after today but this will have to wait a little longer since full integration into the EAC will take a few more months to a year. Congolese citizens wishing to travel within the region will still require visas. South Sudan for example took four months from acceding to the community treaty in April 2016 to becoming a full member of the EAC in August that year.
Once full integration happens Congolese nationals can travel freely to the other member countries and trade will become much quicker, simpler and cheaper, which will benefit businesses and consumers in all countries.
DRC shares borders with all EAC members except Kenya however today’s action gives DR Congo better access to facilities such as the Indian Ocean ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa and hopes to attract more investors from the region. Import taxes for goods made in DR Congo will be removed or greatly reduced when entering the other member countries, while transporting goods will become much cheaper which is a big win for the region.
While DRC will have access to the Indian Ocean, the East African countries are also smiling all the way to the Atlantic Ocean as well as this pact will help them gain access to West Africa and the Atlantic Ocean through DR Congo. However what remains a major setback is the country’s road and rail networks which remain dilapidated and will require massive upgrade first.
The potential trade links from the Atlantic to Indian Ocean will help the region to expand its economic potential especially now when Africa is working on implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“This phase was the most expected by many Congolese. It is true that many do not yet know what this integration will bring , however through customs cooperation and trade, we all have something to gain. The DR Congo produces and we need to export. ” says Innocent Buchu, a researcher and journalist based in DRC.
The EAC market is expected to expand to almost 300 million after the inclusion of DR Congo’s consumer market of close to 90 million people however it won’t be an easy job to integrate such a huge, and chaotic country into the EAC as the country’s poor infrastructure and insecurity problem have been a matter of concern to EAC partner states.
“Integration by the government, entrepreneurs , stakeholders at different levels and businessmen as well as the locals will go a long way in helping our country to successfully join the EAC,” adds Buchu