Formerly comprised of 7 member states, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and South Sudan, Somalia on Friday, November 24th, became its eighth member.
Following a year of deliberation by the other heads of state, Somalia was finally admitted into the bloc, after the regional event; the 23rd ordinary summit of the heads of state held in Arusha, Tanzania.
Evariste Ndayishimiye, Burundi’s President and exiting chairperson of the EAC bloc, noted that it was a lengthy discussion that eventually led to the admission of Somalia. A conclusion that was reached on the same day of the summit.
EAC's commitment to Pan-Africanism
Somalia’s entry into the bloc comes just a year after the DRC’s admission, showing the bloc’s commitment to strengthening regional ties.
The East African bloc, having both Kenya and Rwanda which have strong philosophies on African unity as demonstrated by their recent no-visa policy, is an economic bloc that is highly pro-African.
From initiatives of interconnected travel to ideas of sharing a single tourism visa to implementing tariff-free trades and sharing resources, this bloc over the years has been nothing short of progressive.
Dr. Peter Mathuki, the Secretary General of the East African Community (EAC), touched on the importance of the private sector in promoting intraregional trade and integration and noted that the EAC is people-centered, earlier this month when it was announced that Somalia’s entry into the bloc was becoming more likely.
Prior to that, as a result of internal conflicts with Al Shabaab and a very shaky political and legal structure, Somalia's initial application to join the EAC in 2012 was denied.
After discussions between the country and EAC officials in August, a report was put together and submitted to the council of Ministers for review prior to being sent to this Friday's Heads of State meeting. And on Friday, Somalia's request was finally granted.
According to Secretary General, intra-EAC commerce has surged from less than 10 percent to almost 20 percent during the last ten years.
The DRC’s minister of infrastructure Dieudonne Dukundane also spoke of a standard gauge railway that will run from the port of Dar es Salaam to Burundi, which would in effect save Burundi roughly $70 million in transportation expenses.