The East Africa Community (EAC) have reached an advanced stage. If successful, this move would pave the way for Somalia to become the newest member state of the EAC, almost eleven years after initially applying for membership.
Sources close to the negotiations have revealed that a crucial step has been taken, bringing the discussions to the negotiation stage. This progress sets the groundwork for recommendations that could see Somalia join the bloc as its eighth member, following in the footsteps of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which formally joined in April 2022.
The negotiations, which commenced on Tuesday last week, are scheduled to conclude on September 5, 2023.
A senior official, speaking to Dalsan, emphasized that the outcome of the negotiations would be documented in a report to be presented to the EAC Council of Ministers. Subsequently, the report will be reviewed by the EAC Heads of State during the Summit, where the final decision to admit Somalia into the Community will be made.
“The decision to admit a new country into the Community is a prerogative of the Summit and not the Council of Ministers or the negotiations team,” the official explained.
Representatives from the EAC secretariat, the East African Legislative Assembly, the East African Court of Justice, and their counterparts from the Federal Republic of Somalia are actively engaging in the talks.
Rebecca Miano, the Cabinet Secretary for ASALs and Regional Development in the East African Community, stated that the negotiations are being conducted in accordance with a directive from the 22nd Extraordinary Summit. The discussions are centered around political, legal, institutional, infrastructure, productive and social sectors, as well as economic and trade affairs.
“The admission of Somalia into the Community will create a larger and expanded market, which will be a significant boost for the private sector and a great milestone in the integration process,” said Miano.
Somalia first applied for EAC membership in 2012; however, due to the country’s internal conflicts and weak institutions at the time, its application was declined. To assess Somalia’s readiness, a verification mission was subsequently launched by the EAC on January 25, 2023.
To become a member of the EAC, countries must fulfill certain conditions outlined in the 1999 Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. These conditions include respecting the universal principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and other civil liberties.
Somalia shares a border with Kenya to the East and has strong historical, linguistic, economic, and socio-cultural ties with all EAC partner states. One of the primary requirements for admission into the EAC is sharing a border with at least one member state. Additionally, a country seeking membership must have robust democratic institutions.
The inclusion of Somalia in the EAC would expand the geographical reach of the community, bolster Somalia’s efforts to improve its multilateral and fiscal standing, and tap into the country’s blue economy potential.
Earlier this year, a delegation from the seven-nation bloc, comprising Kenya, DRC, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda, visited Somalia to assess its level of preparedness. The delegation reviewed Somalia’s institutional and legal frameworks, policies, strategies, programs, and areas of cooperation with the EAC.
Peter Mathuki, the Secretary General of the EAC, highlighted that Somalia would benefit from the bloc’s regional infrastructure projects, including roads, railways, and energy networks. These projects aim to enhance connectivity, improve transportation links, boost regional trade, and support Somalia’s economic development and integration.
As negotiations draw to a close, all eyes are on the outcome, which could herald a new chapter in Somalia’s relationship with the East African Community.