- It is a country well-endowed with natural resources and has the world’s second largest rain forest.
- The DRC has applied to join the East African Community (EAC) and is slated to become the EAC’s seventh member after Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Burundi.
The Democratic Republic Of Congo (DRC) is a large country with a population of 90 million people and it is one of the biggest countries in Africa.
It is a country well-endowed with natural resources and has the world’s second largest rain forest.
The DRC has applied to join the East African Community (EAC) and is slated to become the EAC’s seventh member after Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Burundi.
Before the DRC can fully join the EAC there is a verification process which has been completed and thereafter a presentation to the EAC heads of state for acceptance.
The pending acceptance of DRC into the EAC has many benefits to countries in the region, the DRC and Kenya in particular.
Regional blocs operate on the principle of liberalisation of the market and removal of market barriers.
Liberalisation has the effect of opening up markets to fair competition. This in the long run is good both for regional trade and the consumers.
Protectionism is the opposite of liberalisation. Protectionism happens where a country imposes strict rules and market barrier entries to imports.
Some market barriers include high taxes and tariffs and restrictions on imports. As a result, it becomes very difficult to do business with a country that is protectionist.
The consumers in a protectionist countries suffer because they cannot access diversity. The potential entry of the DRC has several benefits to the DRC and countries in the region.
Other than the general benefits of liberalisation there are direct benefits due to the EAC Treaty.
The first benefit is the elimination of barriers to trade. For example, taxes are harmonised making it easy to export goods to the DRC and import goods from the DRC.
DRC is a source of a lot of raw materials such as cocoa and even minerals. for those in the manufacturing sector Importing from DRC will be cheaper and exporting to the DRC will also be cheaper.
It is therefore time to consider the DRC as a market during expansion. The EAC protocol supports free movement of goods, capital and people within the region.
This means it will be easier to open new business in DRC and likewise from DRC. There will be elimination of barriers, for example for work permits, to free movement of labour and people.
This means that it will be easier to set up new businesses and get jobs without much restrictions.
The EAC is yet to actualise professional mutual recognition agreements (MRAs). In the legal sector for example, for one to practice law in Kenya they must be admitted to the Kenyan bar.
Advocates from other countries cannot practice in Kenya unless they pass the bar exams in Kenya.
A regional MRA means that as long as one is admitted to a bar association in any one of the countries then they can automatically practice anywhere in the EAC.
Professional MRAs ought to be passed to allow professionals get the full benefits of liberalisation of the EAC market.
Harmonisation of trade laws is another benefit of the EAC. Dispute resolution may be made easier if parties nominate arbitration through the East Africa Court Of Justice (EACJ).
Entry to EAC may assist nationals in DRC refer human rights abuse cases to the EACJ. Human rights abuses are rampant in DRC and a reference to EACJ may help hold DRC accountable in so far as human rights are concerned.
Member states of the EAC will reap full benefits if the EAC passes pending laws and strengthens institutional capacity.