DRC itching to join the EAC: Will the move solve her longstanding crisis?
Written by: George Kalisa
Thursday, February 21st, 2019, 11:47
Early February President Felix Tshisekendi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) expressed undying interest for the expansive resource-rich nation to join the East African Community (EAC) bloc.
Since the EAC was revived in 2001 more countries acceded to the EAC Treaty. Ascension to the community and exit from it is at will.
Rwanda and Burundi ascended to the EAC in 2007 before South Sudan joined in April16, 2016.
The EAC aims at widening and deepening co-operation among the partner states and other regional economic communities in, among others, political, economic and social fields for their mutual benefit.
President Tshisekendi revealed the interest of the DRC to join the now six-member EAC bloc during a February visit to his Kenyan counterpart President Uhuru Kenyatta. Tshisekendi said he was optimistic that joining the EAC would help deepen his country's economic ties with the region.
Tshisekedi said the bloc will benefit the Congolese mostly those living in the eastern region of his country. It is still expensive for the Congolese to do business with Kampala and the region because DRC as an outsider is not entitled to preferential treatment EAC members get.
Array of benefits awaiting DRC
A bigger population means a bigger market. DRC will bring on board over 85 million people to raise the EAC population to about 267 million. Currently, the EAC boast of a total population of about 182 people with Uganda (40m), Rwanda (12m), Burundi (11m), Kenya (52m), South Sudan (13m) and Tanzania (54m).
DRC’s ascension to the Community will significantly increase the volume of trade in the region as movement of people. and goods and services are bound to increase.
The central African nation is endowed with many resources including minerals like copper, diamond, cobalt, uranium, coltan, gold and oil. Besides, it boasts of valuable timber in abundant supply. Hence, the EAC partner states will start doing intra-trade with DRC under the principal of comparative advantage.
Again, this will be an opportunity for DRC to produce more hydroelectricity through the development of the two hydroelectric Inga Dams connected to one of the largest waterfalls in the world, Inga Falls which are located 140 miles southest of Kinshasa. Power generation is one of the projects pursued by the EAC.
This will go a long way to fill the growing gap in electricity supply in the EAC region and hence widening the revenue base for the vast African country.
DRC will benefit from the EAC infrastructure development especially from the northern corridor integration projects which are underway. There are direct benefits awaiting DRC since it borders Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda which are in countries in the northern corridor. Kenya is the fourth.
Apart from power generation, the country may benefit from the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project which is at different stages of implementation in all northern corridor countries with Kenya nearly reaching completion.
There are EAC peace and security protocols to address and allay insecurity from which DRC may benefit in its quest for lasting solutions to insecurity caused mainly by subversive groups in especially DRC’s eastern region. These include: EAC Armed Forces Command Post Exercise (CPX) and police cooperation, which has helped curbing cross-border crimes.
They will also share the EAC model on shared criminal intelligence, which can help DRC leapfrog several security challenges.
The EAC steadily pursues the political federation of the region through rolling out several regional mechanisms. It is such a commitment behind the creation of the EAC customs union, common market, nontariff barrier monitoring and removal mechanism, joint infrastructure projects, currency convertibility and harmonization of standards for goods.
Others include; a harmonized national budget preparation, mutual recognition of health certificates, temporary travel documents for the region, harmonized immigration procedures. The cooperation stretches to include the judiciary, ICT and air transport.
No one is saying that all is well for EAC partner states with some member like Burundi accusing some members of creating and sustaining the Burindi crisis that was fueled by President Pierre Nkuruziza’s third term bid in 2015.
However, Burundi’s situation is different from DRC’s and solutions to both could be different. It is important to mention that the political will of the leaders from individual states is crucial in the continued search of a peaceful region - an element that could be largely wanting in the Burundi crisis.
By and large, DRC’s ascension dream to the EAC is long overdue and the move is largely viewed as a solution to a horde of problems the country has grappled with since it gained independence.