At a virtual summit held Tuesday, the leaders of the East African Community’s member states approved the Democratic Republic of Congo’s admission into the bloc. Congo joins Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda as the trade bloc’s seventh member, giving a significant boost to the country’s trade and security prospects, as well as to regional and continental integration efforts.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who serves as the EAC’s rotating chairperson, described the occasion as “historic” for the bloc and the continent at large, pointing to its potential to increase trade and investment opportunities for the EAC’s citizens, while providing its member countries with greater economies of scale to pursue their development objectives. Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi echoed Kenyatta’s remarks, stating that his country’s membership paves the way for increased cooperation among the bloc’s members as well as their partner states. The two sides are expected to sign a treaty of accession formalizing Congo’s new membership by April.
Congo’s admission into the EAC culminates Tshisekedi’s three-year effort to join the bloc and burnishes his credentials as a champion of regional integration. In his inaugural address as president following his controversial electoral victory in January 2019, he made Congo’s admission to the bloc one of the primary objectives of his mandate, taking considerable steps to build personal relations with the leaders of Congo’s neighbors and participate in regional collaboration efforts; Kinshasa later applied for membership of the EAC in June 2019. And during his rotational chairmanship of the African Union in 2021, Tshisekedi prioritized regional and continental integration as well as increased intra-Africa collaborations, with the successful launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA, after a pandemic-induced delay standing out as the landmark achievement of his one-year term.