Why DR Congo is joining East Africa Community

The largest country in Sub Saharan Africa is set to provide a huge market for Kenya

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo: A woman waves the Congolese national flag during an inauguration ceremony for the new president Joseph Kabila, 06 December 2006, in Kinshasa. (Photo by LIONEL HEALING/AFP via Getty Images)

The East African Community (EAC) is set to have a new member as Democratic Republic of Congo will formally join the regional intergovernmental organisation on March 29.

The EAC Secretary-General Dr Peter Mathuki, in a letter to ministers in charge of the docket in their member states, confirmed that the Heads of State will approve the admission in their upcoming 48th Extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers.

“The summit will be preceded by the 48th Extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers on Friday 25th March. The proposed agenda for the summit will be the consideration of the report of the council on the admission of DRC into the EAC,” he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, the current chair of the EAC, is expected to preside over the summit that also includes Presidents from the other five member states (Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda).

During the virtual summit of EAC heads of state held on Wednesday, December 22, 2021, members expounded the role of DRC in strengthening trade and broadening the market of the bloc.

They also considered the bloc as a strategic security partner to DRC that has been continuously fighting rebels in the eastern part of the country.

The central African country, 11th largest in the world by area, is endowed with exceptional natural resources, including minerals such as cobalt and copper, hydropower potential, significant arable land, immense biodiversity and the world's second-largest rainforest.

DRC is already a key African market for Kenyan firms with latest official annual data showing exports earnings from the country amounted to Sh14.3 billion in 2020 — only dwarfed by Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Egypt and South Sudan.

Some of the key exports to DRC are animal and vegetable fats and oils, pharmaceutical products, tobacco, iron and steel, leather and footwear, vegetables, fruits, nuts, plastics as well as paper and paperboard.

Despite the country relying on eastern Africa sea ports for imports, Mombasa handles less than 15 percent of the share of goods sent to DRC, with Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Beira in Mozambique getting the bulk of the deals.

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