- Peter Mwangangi
- BBC Africa Business Reporter, Nairobi
The Democratic Republic of the Congo joined the East African Community (EAC) as the seventh member, greatly expanding the trade bloc’s territory, giving it access to the Atlantic Ocean and dramatically increasing the number of French speakers in what was originally a club. former British colonies.
What changes immediately?
East African Community (EAC) heads of state approved the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s admission to the bloc at Tuesday’s summit, but while the country officially became a member, little could change immediately.
Congolese legislators still need to ratify EAC laws and regulations before they come into effect.
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Congolese citizens wishing to travel to other member countries – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda – without a visa may have to wait a little longer as full integration into the BAC may take months or even a year.
For example, it took South Sudan four months to join the treaty community in April 2016 and become a full member of the EAC in August of that year.
Why DR Congo wants to join‘EAC ?
The Democratic Republic of the Congo applied for membership in 2019, hoping to improve trade and political ties with its East African neighbors.
This will allow Congolese citizens to travel freely to other countries, and trade will become much faster, easier and cheaper, which should benefit businesses and consumers in all countries.
The country borders all EAC members except Kenya and hopes to attract more investors from the region.
Joining the bloc gives the Democratic Republic of the Congo greater access to facilities such as the Indian Ocean ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa.
Taxes on imports of goods recognized as originating in the DR Congo will be abolished or significantly reduced when imported into other countries, and the transportation of goods will become much cheaper.
“We have been waiting for this announcement for a long time. We are very happy,” Lei Molo Lei, a Congolese trader living near the Ugandan border, told the BBC.
At present, it is not easy for Congolese businessmen to travel to Uganda, he said: “In order to obtain travel documents to visit Uganda, a Congolese must pay US$45 on the Congolese side of the border. Then when he gets to the Ugandan side, he has to pay $50 for a visa. Then there is the Covid-19 test fee, so you pay about $120 in total.”
And for the rest of the participants?
Roman Vema, president of the Kenya Truckers and Allied Trades Union, is looking forward to the end of the endless wait he currently has to endure to enter DR Congo.
“Currently, we are facing many challenges such as queues for entry visas to the DRC, waiting days for our goods to clear at the border, resulting in significant parking and storage costs, including before arriving at our final destination. destination, he said.
The process of transporting goods across borders should become much easier. At present, authorities at border crossings use different systems.
“Clearance of goods will be faster. As soon as a single border point opens, customs officers from Uganda and the DRC will sit in the same building to clear customs of goods and people,” says Guma Morris, who oversees the office. Power on the border of Mpondwe.
The inclusion of the DRC consumer market of nearly 90 million people will expand the EAC market to almost 300 million people and open up the bloc to the Congolese economy rich in natural resources of all kinds.
Dr. Abel Quinyondo, an economist at the University of Dar es Salaam, believes that the inclusion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will boost the bloc’s bargaining power globally.
“Numbers matter in international trade – adding the DRC economy to the community means more purchasing power,” he says.
EAC General Secretary Peter Matuki is enthusiastic. “We are neighbors of the DRC, but we don’t trade much with it simply because it doesn’t have borders. East is like Zambia and Asia,” he told the BBC.
“Therefore, we are looking forward to the creation of a mechanism that will improve trade between us and the DRC.”
Theoretically, East African countries could gain access to West Africa and the Atlantic Ocean through the DRC, but first of all, a massive modernization of the country’s road and rail networks would be required. At present, the only way to cross this huge country, which is two-thirds of the area of Western Europe, is by plane.
This potential expansion of trade links between the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic will boost the region’s economic potential as the continent seeks to implement the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
What are the problems?
It will not be easy to integrate such a huge and chaotic country into the rest of the EAC.
Poor infrastructure and lack of security in the country are of concern to the partner countries of the EAC.
“If you look at the border crossings that enter or border the DRC, once you get to those borders, the infrastructure literally comes to a halt,” says Damali Ssali, a trade expert.
“Even the infrastructure that should encourage trade at the border is not as good as in other countries. The roads are very bad.”
And then there’s the uncertainty.
In December 2021, Ugandan troops entered DR Congo at the invitation of the Congolese government to help dismantle the Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF), one of many armed groups wreaking havoc in the country’s resource-rich east.
“The lack of security limits trade, however more formal trade between the EAC and the DRC could actually reduce conflict in the eastern part of the DRC as it would reduce smuggling through greater cooperation in various areas including customs, trade and security,” says Penina. Simba, sales consultant.
what language am iin AGAINSTadviser I will useshe ?
English and Swahili are currently the official languages of the East African Community, although there is talk of introducing French, which is spoken in Rwanda and Burundi.
The official languages of DR Congo are Kiswahili, French, Lingala, Kituba (Kikongo) and Chiluba. According to experts, the multilingualism of the region should be seen as an opportunity, not an obstacle.
Efforts have been made to promote the widespread use of Swahili, especially since the African Union adopted it as an official working language in February 2022. However, in some regions, such as western DR Congo and parts of other EAC states, it is not spoken.
“We hope that in the future ECA will become multilingual, which may even lead to closer interaction between the citizens of ECA and the French-speaking countries of Central Africa,” said Mr. Simba.
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