Peter Mathuki, Secretary-General of the East African Community (EAC), anticipates Somalia’s potential admission to the bloc this month.
The Ordinary Heads of State Summit on November 23-24 in Arusha is expected to see regional presidents endorsing Somalia’s accession.
During a panel discussion at the Africa Investment Forum in Marrakech, Morocco, on November 9, Dr. Mathuki expressed the bloc’s ambition to extend its reach to the entire Horn of Africa. Ethiopia has indicated interest in joining the East African Community (EAC) following Somalia’s potential accession.
“The East African Community is one of the building blocks of the African Union and it’s fast growing. We have DR Congo as the latest member, plus Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda. That is a market of around 300 million people,” he said.
“And this November, we are likely to admit Somalia into the Community. The coastline of the East African Community will stretch almost 500,000 kilometres. And we look forward to more expansion; we are looking at Ethiopia, which has shown interest in joining the Community. So, at the end of the day, we are looking at a market of close to 700 million people.”
The panel, consisting of leaders from prominent African economic blocs including EAC, Comesa, Southern African Development Community, and Ecowas, convened to deliberate on the imperative of fostering integration across Africa.
Dr. Mathuki underscored the people-centric approach of the East African Community (EAC) and highlighted the pivotal role of the private sector in advancing intra-regional trade and integration. He pointed out that intra-EAC trade has experienced a twofold increase over the past decade, surging from less than 10 percent to approximately 20 percent today.
Leaders who spoke at the forum extolled the role of transport corridors in integrating Africa and facilitating the implementation of the continental free trade area, AfCFTA.
Burundi’s Infrastructure minister Dieudonne Dukundane said the standard gauge railway from the port of Dar es Salaam to Burundi and DR Congo was going to be a game-changer in trade and exploitation of the rich mineral potential the three countries have, noting that once complete it would save his country about $70 million in transport costs.
“Failing to invest in a railway has been costly to our economy. We are 1,500 kilometres from the port of Dar es Salaam. When we take a round trip this makes 3,000 kilometres. And relying on roads means that you only carry 25 or 28 tonnes,” the minister said.
Adding, “With a railway in place it will help us save nearly $100 per tonne. And, if we were running a business of nearly a million tonnes per year, we’d be saving not less than $70 million. So without a railway, in 10 years, we would have lost nearly $1 billion. This is the amount that is needed to build one.”
Dr Mathuki said he was pushing for investment in infrastructure projects on the main corridors linking the Great Lakes with the ports of Dar and Mombasa to boost trade.
“The deal is, let us invest in infrastructure. We may be late, but better late than never,” he said.