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Democratic Republic of Congo becomes the 7th Partner State of the East African Community

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) officially became on 8th April 2022 the seventh Partner State of the East African Community by signing the Treaty of accession to the EAC (read the official communiqué).

The DRC submitted its application to join the EAC in 2019. This was followed by a decision, adopted at the 18th Extra-Ordinary summit virtual meeting of the Heads of State of the EAC Partner States of 22 December 2021, that directed the EAC Council of Minister’s to begin negotiations with the DRC in order to pave the way for its admission to the EAC. At the end of such negotiations, the EAC Council of Ministers adopted during their 44th Extra-Ordinary Meeting of 22 November 2021 the decision to admit the DRC to the East Africa Community.

Being also a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), it is expected that the DRC will act as a bridge for increased coordination between SADC and EAC, two Regional Economic Communities that together with COMESA are already associated into the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) work programme, a project aiming to integrate into an enlarged Free Trade Area (FTA) three of the major African Regional Economic Communities (RECs) by gradually reducing to zero percent both the tariffs for all goods traded in the bloc, as well as obstacles to trade between members countries. More importantly, the extension of the EAC to the African Western coast will make possible for the Community to plan and prioritise the construction of transit corridors cutting transversally Africa to link the Indian to the Atlantic ocean.

Although some observers are skeptical regarding the effects that this accession will produce on the political stability of the entire Community, it must be noted that similar fears were expressed when Burundi joined the EAC, as at that time it was the only country with an internal conflict. This is not what happened, and Burundi after its accession to the EAC has enjoyed a more stable political environment, also benefiting from removal of sanctions that were imposed by its neighbours and that risked to isolate the country.

DRC is one of the countries in Africa that participates to more RECs in absolute, being also a member of COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States) and of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). However, the accession process to the EAC is not yet complete, as the DRC Parliament has still to approve the ratification law to the EAC Treaty and deposit it to the EAC Secretary General.

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