The ambition of the Congolese head of state to bring his country into the EAC – one of the most integrated trade and economic blocks on the continent – has just taken a decisive step.
In his inauguration speech on January 24, 2019, President Félix Tshisekedi had set as one of the objectives of his term of office the integration of the DRC into the East African Community (EAC, for East African Community ) “Which the majority of member countries border on and with which our citizens, in the east of the country, have engaged in significant economic exchanges for several decades”. This integration could be done in the near future. Indeed, the Council of Ministers of the EAC validated the DRC’s application for membership during their 44th extraordinary meeting, in Arusha (Tanzania).
“The ministers examined the conclusions of the report drawn up to ensure that the DRC is a good candidate to join the EAC”, notes a statement from the institution whose general secretariat has been provided since February 2021, for five years, by Kenyan Peter Mathuki. The Council therefore recommended to the Summit of Heads of State “to start negotiations with the DRC”, which “will create a platform for in-depth discussions on the modalities of harmonization of the policies and instruments of the DRC with those of the DRC. the EAC ”. And this also taking into account “questions relating to peace and security, language and legal systems”, to be tackled in a “strategic way during the negotiations”.
“By joining the DRC, the Community will open the corridor from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as from north to south, thus expanding the economic potential of the region”, rejoiced Peter Mathuki, afterwards. of the Arusha meeting.
Border with five member states of the organization – Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan – the DRC was assessed from June 25 to July 5 on its level of compliance with the organization. Similarly, the DRC and Tanzania control almost equally almost all of Lake Tanganyika. From the beginning of June 2019, Kinshasa had expressed, in a letter to Paul Kagamé, then current president of the Summit of Heads of State of the EAC, its desire to integrate the organization.
Among the advantages for the DRC are: the integration of the east of the country into the common telecommunications space which will allow costs to be reduced with neighboring countries; several administrative facilities and the reduction of charges for the commercial and economic activities of Congolese citizens as well as facilitation of their mobility in Eastern countries. Several EAC countries are among the main African trading partners of the DRC. The DRC should also benefit from the reduction in customs tariffs for goods received at the ports of Mombassa (Kenya) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).
In addition, in February, the EAC Heads of State Summit approved the addition of French as the official language of the Community, alongside English and Swahili. This project mentioned in 2013 languished in the drawers of the EAC since, before receiving a new and decisive impetus in 2020. Unlike Rwanda (English, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili) and Burundi (Kirundi), the DRC has no other language official than French.
Kinshasa could also benefit from the application of the EAC Collective Security Pact, notably with the support of countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, against the activism of local and foreign armed groups supported by regional actors, including some members of this regional economic community.
Some observers fear, however, that the opening of the Congolese market to economic operators from EAC countries could penalize national economic actors, considered less competitive in several sectors of activity, and thus undermine Congolese entrepreneurship. . Others go further and point to “the risk of an economic disintegration of the DRC” as well as of a “territorial disunity”, with “the east and north-east of the country turned towards the EAC, the south towards the economic community of southern Africa (SADC), the west and the north-west attracted by the regional space of the center of the continent (ECCAS), and the center of the country cut off from the rest of the Congolese world ”. This fear is reinforced by the lack of road and rail infrastructure in the country.