Caleb Keraka is a Staff Correspondent for JURIST in Kenya and a fourth-year law student at the University of Nairobi School of Law.
On April 8th in Nairobi the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) formally joined the East African Community (EAC) bloc by signing the EAC Accession Treaty. This came after meeting the requisite conditions of membership and legal capacity as established under Articles 3 and 4 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC. DRC becomes the 7th partner state after the Republics of Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan. The headquarters of the East African Community is in Arusha, Tanzania.
The DRC has up to 29th September 2022 to conduct the requisite domestic and constitutional processes for ratifying the treaty. The instruments of ratification will afterwards be deposited with the EAC secretary-general. DRC will be part of EAC in all sectors, activities and programmes. The country will be expected to promote the four pillars of EAC regional integration and the objectives of the community. In addition, EAC’s legal instruments, policies, market protocols and regulations will be binding on the DRC. The EAC’s trade infrastructure, intermodal connectivity, one-stop border posts and trade systems will also be integrated. DRC will have members of parliament elected to join the East African Legislative Assembly.
The EAC will certainly benefit from the entrance of DRC. This is because of its rich natural resources and untapped deposits of raw minerals. The DRC is also a chief exporter of petroleum and an importer of machinery, transport equipment, food, animals and basic manufactures. This will boost trade and improve the economy, commerce and intra-EAC trade in cooperation since the market has broadened. It will strengthen EAC’s economic muscles and competitiveness on the African continent and globally.
The growth of the EAC strengthens the historical attachments of the earlier member states and the DRC. The advantage of a shared common Kiswahili language and African culture demonstrates the attachment. The people and families of the region will prosper due to the expected benefit for internal and external peace and security. Frequent conflicts along the border with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have affected economic developments in the eastern region of DRC.
Easy cross-border movements between member states will promote regional integration. This means market expansion, industrialization and an increase in production and talent mobility across the region. H.E. President Kenyatta, the Chairperson of the EAC, acknowledged in his address last Friday that the movement of people, goods and services across the community will boost trade and strengthen people-to-people ties. It shall also enable East Africans to harness the strength of each party state for the benefit of all.
Non-tariff barriers and limitations on the movement of capital, goods, services and people were removed after the accession. This promotes the interests of the private sector as provided in Article 127 of the treaty. Partner states will have to stimulate market development through proper regulations, promoting conducive investment codes and protecting property rights. This is because the EAC is people-centered and private sector driven. In addition, member states will have to welcome and establish immediate infrastructural, business and trade linkages with the DRC. This is aimed at optimizing the economic and trade benefits to the bloc.
With the tremendous growth of the EAC, the future of the region is bright. Regional integration, trade, economy and legal regulations will all help promote the intergovernmental realization of the community’s objectives. However, if the laid down commitments and strategies are not implemented, the anticipated bright future will be inevitably bleak.