Recently, the leaders of the East African Community approved the inclusion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the bloc, ending a long journey. As we celebrate history and welcome our Congolese brothers and sisters to the region, we should seize opportunities along the way. We expect the number of French speakers, commerce, culture, entertainment and marriages to increase. However, for non-French and Swahili speakers, it is an opportunity to learn this language to communicate well with our interlocutors.
English and Swahili are currently the official languages of the East African Community, although there has been talk of introducing French, which is spoken in Rwanda and Burundi. Although EAC leaders have approved DRC’s inclusion in the bloc, Congolese lawmakers have yet to ratify EAC laws and regulations before they come into force. Congolese nationals wishing to visit the other member countries – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda – without a visa may have to wait a little longer as full integration into the EAC can take months or even a year.
This will allow Congolese citizens to travel freely to the other countries and trade will be much faster, easier and cheaper, which should benefit businesses and consumers in all countries. The country borders all EAC members except Kenya and hopes to attract more investors from the region, but DRC’s entry into the bloc will allow better access to facilities like the Indian Ocean ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa.
Import taxes on goods accepted as manufactured in DR Congo are eliminated or greatly reduced when entering the other countries, while transporting goods becomes much cheaper. The dispatch of goods is accelerated. Once the one-stop border post is open, customs officials from Uganda and the DRC will sit in the same building to clear goods and people. Including the DRC consumer market of nearly 90 million people will expand the EAC market to nearly 300 million and open the bloc to the Congolese economy rich in all kinds of natural resources.
The inclusion of DR Congo will increase the bargaining power of the bloc globally as you will want to know that numbers matter in international trade – the inclusion of DR Congo’s economy in the community implies increased purchasing power. This potential expansion of trade links from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic would help expand the region’s economic potential at a time when the continent is working to implement the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
As the infrastructure is designed to catalyze trade at the border, Uganda has embarked on a $330 million 223km regional road link. The aim is to build three roads to improve communication between Uganda and the cities of Beni, Goma and Butembo in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each government contributed 20 percent of the cost, and the rest is funded by Dott.
Second, peace and security harmonization is also good because insecurity restricts trade, however, more official trade between the EAC and the DRC could actually reduce conflicts in the eastern part of the DRC as it would reduce smuggling due to greater cooperation in various areas, including customs, trade and security.
In December 2021, at the invitation of the Congolese government, Ugandan troops crossed into DR Congo to help eliminate the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), one of many armed groups wreaking havoc in the country’s resource-rich east. For the future we expect a multilingual EAC, which could lead to even more interaction between EAC citizens and the francophone countries in Central Africa.
Bishop Samuel, Head of Communications and Media Relations, Ministry of East African Community Affairs in Uganda