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DRC joins East African Economic Union

Ihe continent does not lack regional organizations. And the Community of East African States (EAC) is one of the most dynamic with 190 million inhabitants, the free movement of goods and people and above all a cumulative GDP valued at 250 billion dollars, according to the African Regional Integration Index. The Democratic Republic of Congo, already a member of three other regional trade organizations, chose almost three years ago to join the EAC. On June 8, 2019, the DRC indeed requested, in a letter addressed to the Rwandan Paul Kagame (then president of the institution, editor’s note), his integration into the EAC. The request of the Congolese leader, specifies the letter, “follows the commercial exchanges which do not cease growing between the operators of the Democratic Republic of Congo and those of the States of the aforesaid community”. It is now done. The EAC, headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania, now has seven members: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Uganda and DRC.

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From the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean

With its 90 million inhabitants, the DRC brings the potential market of the EAC to nearly 300 million people. Endowed with significant mineral resources, the DRC, which is one of the richest countries in the world in mineral resources, shares borders with all the member states of the EAC, with the exception of Kenya. “The entry of the DRC marks a crucial moment in the history of the integration of the region”, declared the Kenyan Head of State Uhuru Kenyatta, and current President of the EAC, in formalizing the accession of the DRC during an extraordinary online summit of the leaders of the Member States, Tuesday 29 March.

“The EAC now extends from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, which makes the region competitive and facilitates its access to the largest Continental Free Trade Area” (Zlec, which brings together several sub-regional organizations of the continent), underlined the secretary general of the organization, Peter Mathuki. Founded in 2000, the EAC aims in particular to facilitate cross-border trade by eliminating customs duties between its member states. It established a common market in 2010. With the accession of the DRC, which is also the largest country in sub-Saharan Africa and the largest French-speaking country in Africa, the EAC offers itself an outlet on the Atlantic . The region currently depends on the seaports of Kenya and Tanzania that lead to the Indian Ocean for trade with the rest of the world. The challenge of piracy off the coast of Somalia has revealed the need for an alternative trade route.

On a strategic level, this membership can allow the DRC and its leader to attract other states to the center of Africa.

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The economic fragilities of the DRC

The admission of the DRC to the East African Community will boost trade in the region, the East African Business Council said in a statement released on Tuesday. The EAC said in the statement that this historic milestone transformed the EAC into the most attractive destination for business investment in Africa, boasting a market economy of 266 million people and a gross domestic product of US$243 billion. . The EAC is determined to ensure that DRC businesses benefit from better trade facilitation at the ports of Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, the statement added. The DRC already does substantial trade with the East African Community bloc.

In the future, with accession, goods produced in the DRC will no longer be subject to customs duties. Will this be enough to bring the DRC out of its economic isolation? This membership raises fears among experts, because it could reveal the economic weaknesses of the Congolese giant. It should be remembered that the DRC is a little industrialized country, little banked, its economy is very extroverted. The giant suffers from an infrastructure deficit. And business-wise, he only occupies 183and position (out of 190 countries) in the Doing Business ranking. The risk of seeing the country become a real funnel for the products of its neighbors is therefore real.

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Strong geopolitical stakes

Beyond the economy, on the diplomatic level, President Tshisekedi quickly made the choice to turn to his eastern neighbors when he came to power, but the integration of his country into the EAC s accompanies immense political and security challenges. The Community of East African States regularly experiences episodes of tension between States in the sub-region.

We will also have to deal with a degraded security environment, while eastern DRC has been plagued by violence from numerous armed groups for more than a quarter of a century. Eight blue helmets died in the crash Tuesday of their helicopter. The aircraft crashed while carrying out a reconnaissance mission over an area in eastern DRC, North Kivu, where heavy fighting had pitted the Congolese army against the rebels since the day before. M23 (“March 23 Movement”). The DRC armed forces quickly accused the rebels of shooting down the aircraft. The M23 denied, accusing on the contrary the army of being responsible for the crash. This crash occurred when the Congolese army, after several months of suspicion and decades of relations of mistrust, had just accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebellion, even claiming to have captured two Rwandan soldiers on Monday in the region of the fighting. , in the territory of Rutshuru, bordering Uganda. Relations calmed down with the coming to power in early 2019 of Félix Tshisekedi, who met his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame on several occasions. But the renewed activity of the M23 has revived suspicion. A sign that the hardest part remains to be done.

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