The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country deeply endowed with vast mineral deposits, is set to be admitted to the East African Community (EAC) bloc on Tuesday, March 29, this year.
The EAC secretary-general Dr Peter Mathuki has confirmed the country’s entry into the block following successful vetting.
Exactly a year ago, the Heads of State of the EAC directed the Council of Ministers, which is the organization’s central decision-making organ, to expedite DRC’s admission into EAC.
They directed the Council of Ministers to undertake a verification mission in the DRC to ensure it meets the block’s set regulations for integration.
Currently, the DRC enjoys trade ties with many of the EAC member states – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi – through bilateral deals and at the multilateral level through Southern African Development Community where Dar es Salaam is also a member.
However, the EAC bloc currently faces a number of non-trade barriers in accessing the DRC that slow the efforts to grow cross-border trade.
Admitting the DRC to the EAC is likely going to help render in vain some of these barriers while facilitating improved access to markets on both sides of the border.
Covering 2.34 million square kilometers, the DRC is the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa by landmass coming second to Algeria and has a market of nearly 100 million people. The country, however, has been grappling with issues of poverty, instability, and poor infrastructure network.
In December last year, regional lender Equity Bank Kenya organized a trade mission to the DRC with a view to introducing small businesses as well as investors to the country’s investments’ potential.
“The two governments have signed various MOUs, which make it easier for Congolese businessmen to go to Kenya and Kenyan businessmen to come here and do business. So, the political goodwill is now the incentive to get on board and do business,” said Kenya’s ambassador to the DRC, Dr George Masafu.
Kinshasa offers Kenya, other EAC member countries, as well as the world opportunities for sourcing raw materials for use in their manufacturing companies including high-value minerals such as cobalt and copper.
DRC is also endowed with vast natural resources, including hydropower potential, huge arable land, immense biodiversity, and the world’s second-largest rainforest.
Some of the key exports to DRC from Kenya 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.