Google Map of East African Community's members states.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo joined the East African Community (EAC) and became the 7th member of the regional bloc. The admission into the regional bloc was approved at the 19th Extraordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State conducted virtually on Tuesday, chaired by Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Congolese lawmakers are expected to ratify the EAC laws and regulations before they come into effect, and citizens from DR. Congo wishing to visit the other member countries – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda – without a visa may need to wait a little longer because full integration into the EAC could take months or even a year.
South Sudan, which joined five years ago, took four months from acceding to the community treaty in April 2016 to become a full member of the EAC in August that year.
EAC Secretary-General Peter Mutuku Mathuki said the bloc spans from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, making the region competitive and easy to access the larger African Continental Free Trade Area.
President of Rwanda Paul Kagame supports the admission of the DRC into the region and stands ready to play its part in helping the integration of the DRC into the EAC.
South Sudan Minister of Presidential Affairs, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, who represents President Salva Kiir, welcomes the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo into the East African Community.
He described the admission of new members as a “remarkable” effort and a crucial step to realizing a cohesive East African community.
“Our mission as a community is to widen and deepen economic, political, social, and cultural integration to improve the quality of life of EAC people through increased competitiveness, value-added production, trade, and investments,” Dr. Marial said.
According to the BBC, DR Congo applied for membership in 2019, hoping to improve trade and political ties with its East African neighbours.
Their membership in the East African Community will allow Congolese citizens to travel freely to other countries. Trade will become much quicker, benefiting businesses and consumers in all countries.
Joining the bloc gives DR Congo better access to facilities such as the Indian Ocean ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa.
EAC’s official languages are English and Swahili, but talks are underway to introduce French, spoken in Rwanda and Burundi.
DR Congo’s official languages are Swahili, French, Lingala, Kituba (Kikongo), and Tshiluba. Experts say that the multilingual nature of the region should be looked at as an opportunity and not a barrier.