Heads of state of the six partner states of the East African Community (EAC) endorsed the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as its seventh partner state at a special virtual summit chaired by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on 23 December. The leaders directed the EAC’s Council of Ministers to begin negotiations with the DRC to pave way for its admission into the bloc.
“A key part of our deliberations was to progress the aspirations of our brothers and sisters in the DRC to join us in the EAC. I consider this a testimony of not only the success of the EAC but also the opportunities that remain untapped,” said President Kenyatta.
The EAC is a regional intergovernmental organisation headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania, that was re-established by the original three partner states – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – in 2000. Following the subsequently admission of Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan, the EAC is currently home to 177 million citizens with a combined Gross Domestic Product of USD193 billion.
The admission of the DRC as a seventh member will increase the size of the EAC market to almost 269 million people and raise the body’s total GDP by USD50 billion to USD240 billion.
As one of the fastest growing regional economic blocs in the world, the EAC has widened the regional integration process through the East African Customs Union in 2005, the establishment of the Common Market in 2010 and the implementation of the East African Monetary Union Protocol.
Under the East African Customs Union, partner states have agreed to establish free trade on goods and services between themselves and agreed a common external tariff (CET), whereby imports from countries outside the EAC zone are subjected to the same tariff when sold to any EAC partner state. Goods moving freely within the EAC must comply with the EAC Rules of Origin and certain other provisions.
In 2010, the EAC launched its own Common Market for goods, labour and capital within the region, with the goal of creating a common currency and eventually a full political federation. In 2013, a protocol was signed outlining plans for launching a monetary union within 10 years and, in September 2018, a committee was formed to begin the process of drafting a regional constitution.
In 2008, after negotiations with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the EAC agreed to an expanded free trade area including the member states of all three blocs. The EAC is also an integral part of the African Economic Community.