In a move which has been described as “historic”, the Democratic Republic of Congo has officially been admitted to the East African Community (EAC) trade bloc.
Kenya’s President Kenyatta said the moment was significant: “This is historic… the region has more to gain when it is together than when we are separate.
“The community will grow significantly as there will be expanded market opportunities.”
DR Congo’s consumer market of close to 90 million people is expected to expand the regional market to cover close to 300 million people.
Uganda’s President Museveni was also delighted about the admission: “DRC has finally ‘reconnected’ with the EAC, after separation due to colonialism. This is very crucial. It’s good it’s happening when I’m still alive, I’m a very happy man.”
The EAC heads of state were talking during a virtual summit chaired by President Kenyatta.
Three years after it applied to join the bloc, DR Congo becomes the seventh EAC member alongside Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
Although Congolese citizens will eventually be able to enjoy the privileges that come with membership of the community such as free movement of people, goods, services and capital, changes will not happen overnight.
DR Congo’s parliament will still have to ratify the EAC laws and regulations, as well as deposit the instruments of acceptance with the secretariat before they come into effect.
The EAC is also expected to consider a proposal for the simultaneous translation of French and Swahili during the community’s meetings.
English and Swahili are currently the official languages of the bloc. DR Congo’s main languages are Swahili, French, Lingala, Kituba (Kikongo) and Tshiluba.