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Faith Nyasuguta

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has joined the East African Community (EAC) today, March 29 in a bid to boost trade, social cohesion and security.

The nation was officially admitted to the regional bloc during a virtual extraordinary summit of EAC heads of state chaired by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

DRC will become the seventh member of the bloc. Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda are the other members.

The DRC is the largest, most populous nation to join the EAC, bringing in a market of 90 million people and immediately upgrading the region’s GDP from $193 billion to $240 billion.

In spite of sharing borders with five EAC members, the East African Business Council reports that  trade between the DRC and its neighbors has been surprisingly low. 

In the last seven years, the proportion of EAC exports to the DRC has averaged only 13.5%. The nation’s top importers are presently China, South Africa, and Zambia. With the development, business and trading opportunities could rise in the region.

Congo president Felix Tshisekedi /Courtesy/

“The EAC has a population of about 175 million people with 15% intra-trade. The DRC has 90 million people. That’ll bring the bloc to over 250 million,” Abdullahi Halakhe, an expert on African security says.

“That’s a huge market that will open the corridor from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.”

Popular for its minerals—holding 60% of the world’s coltan, with abundant reserves of copper, diamond, and tin—the DRC is an investment magnet.

Halakhe further argues that with a global push towards renewable energy, DRC’s reserves of cobalt, a mineral used to make batteries for electric vehicles, will be the most sought after commodity.

Already, Kenyan firms have shown interest in expanding investment into the DRC. In 2021, Equity Group, East Africa’s largest banking group, sponsored a two-week trade mission as they announced plans to fund Kenyan businesses setting up shop or expanding into the country.

The DRC will also gain access to the two main ports in the region—Mombasa and Dar es Salaam—allowing goods to be imported and exported at a much faster pace, making it even more attractive to investors.


The EAC will help DRC counter the growing insecurity /Courtesy/

Joining the bloc may also help bring more stability to the DRC, which has been riven by conflict for years. On Monday, March 28, violence erupted in the east of the country when M23 rebels attacked the DRC army near the border with Uganda and Rwanda, local outlets reported.

“Some of the member countries have better lessons of dealing with terrorism,” Halakhe said.

“Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya have their militaries in Somalia fighting against Al Shabaab. That know-how could be invaluable in the DRC’s fight against the Allied Democratic Forces, and other groups.”

Despite developments, there are still questions about the EAC’s overall effectiveness. The regional bloc continues to grapple with unreliable funding, political disagreements, and trade disputes across borders.

Additionally, not all partners have implemented the use of a national identity card to ease travel between countries.

Despite these challenges, the step has been celebrated by African leaders.

“DRC is part of the region. It is colonialism that brought problems,” tweeted Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.

“Now that Africa got its freedom, we should get out of the distortion.”

Uganda president Yoweri Museveni /AFP/


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Faith Nyasuguta