The six-nation East Africa Community (EAC) bloc will on Tuesday next week officially welcome the Democratic Republic of Congo as a new member brining along 90 million market population.
The EAC Secretary-General Dr Peter Mathuki confirmed that the DRC will be admitted into the bloc on March 29 after approval by Heads of State Summit, nearly three years after making a formal application in June 2019.
“We are in receipt of a letter dated 18th March from the chairperson of the Council of Ministers informing the Secretariat of the convening of an extraordinary summit on the admission of the DRC into the EAC on 29th, March 2022,” said Dr Mathuki in a letter to ministers in charge of the EAC docket in member states.
“The summit will be preceded by the 48th Extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers on Friday 25th March. The proposed agenda for the summit will be the consideration of the report of the council on the admission of DRC into the EAC.”
The mineral-rich country already has established trade ties with most of the EAC member states through bilateral deals and at multilateral level where it is affiliated to Southern African Development Community (SADC) where Tanzania is a member.
DRC is already a key African market for Kenyan firms with the latest official annual data showing exports earnings from DRC amounted to Sh14.3 billion in 2020 — only dwarfed by Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Egypt and South Sudan.
Some of the key exports to DRC are animal and vegetable fats and oils, pharmaceutical products, tobacco, iron and steel, leather and footwear, vegetables, fruits, nuts, plastics as well as paper and paperboard.
“Its rich appetite for agricultural produce shall enable local manufacturers to expand their volume of exports to the country,” Mr Mucai Kunyiha, the chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers said.
“With enhanced access to the DRC market, the volume of these exports is expected to rise in the near term, and pave way for more products.”