The recent entry of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the East African Community (EAC) is a clear reminder that “we must unite” if we are to transform our region.
And without necessarily sacrificing our sovereignties, we can also forge a political union based on defence, foreign affairs and diplomacy, a common citizenship, an African currency and a monetary union.
In the words of Kwame Nkrumah: “We must unite to achieve the full liberation of our continent”.
While Africa may not be close to political union, change is near in a world that is becoming increasingly multipolar. As such, strengthening Africa’s regional economic blocs as the idea of realizing a single market, which was Nkrumah’s vision, may not be far off.
A borderless Africa with free movement of people could easily trigger the continent’s renaissance. This is well demonstrated by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) signed by over 51 African countries and is the largest trade agreement since the inception of the WTO. From then on, the promise of a united Africa began to take shape.
Full rights and privileges
On July 11, 2022, the DRC became the seventh full member of the East African Community (EAC) after depositing the instruments of ratification on the accession of the Treaty establishing the East African Community. East Africa, to the EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki, at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
Dr. Mathuki, my former doctoral student, received the instrument of ratification from the hands of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DRC, Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen’ Apala. By depositing the instruments of ratification, the DRC now has all the rights and privileges to participate in the programs and activities of the EAC, to join all the sectors of cooperation and affirms to respect the obligations of the EAC.
The involvement of the DRC becoming a member of the EAC is significant. The EAC region has the potential to enable trade and commerce in the African hinterland. For the EAC to realize its full potential, member countries need to start tackling the infrastructure problem. Building a railway from Lamu in the Indian Ocean to Pointe-Noire in the Republic of Congo on the Atlantic coast may be a game-changer.
At the same time, strive to build highways that link the new West African Highway through Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. Infrastructure will stimulate innovative ideas, enhance cultural regeneration and foster innovation.
In my view, such a development will bring new hope to the people of Africa and reduce conflict. This can help the already intra-regional conflict resolution mechanisms that are underway to foster lasting peace between the DRC and its neighbours.
magnet for chaos
The DRC is the second largest country in Africa by its area of 2.345 million km² and the richest in minerals. With a Swahili-speaking population approaching 100 million, the country could play a key role in economic and social integration beyond the EAC.
As such, the region should move quickly to stabilize the DRC food system as a strategy to reduce the influence of humanitarian organizations from areas such as Goma. Donor resources create dependencies that are difficult to manage in the long term.
Although we celebrate the accession of the DRC to the EAC, the country is fragile. Its abundant resources are a magnet for chaos. Dozens of powerful nations have vested interests in the country that they will stop at nothing to protect. The country’s governance systems are weak and its many ethnicities are the weakest links to stability. The DRC also suffers from food insecurity and is virtually dependent on donor resources.
This calls for an immediate resolution from the top to help the DRC resolve regional and internal conflicts, while encouraging the private sector to invest in agricultural products and start discussions on infrastructure development. Regional food security must be high on the agenda as lack of food is a recipe for instability.