The East African Community (EAC) on Wednesday kicked off its maiden mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at a meeting with a high level government delegation in Kinshasa.
The objective of the EAC mission is to enhance the understanding of DRC Government officials on the commitments in the EAC integration pillars and the Community´s governing instruments.
The inaugural meeting between the mission and the DRC team was officially opened to Kinshasa by DRC´s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Christophe Lutundula Apala Pen´Apala.
Hon. Pen’Apala revealed that DRC has started planning on redirecting its policies and resources with a view to creating conditions favourable for the development and achievement of the objectives of the Community.
“As a member of the EAC, DRC will enact legislations to ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the Treaty establishing the East African Community,” he said.
The Vice Prime Minister said that DRC is committed to creating a conducive business environment through enacting laws and developing policies and programmes to facilitate intra-regional trade.
“We are also looking forward to having our representatives join EAC Organs and Institutions to strengthen our presence in the Community,” he noted.
Hon. Pen’Apala further assured the EAC that DRC is ready to remit its first contribution as a member of the Community, to ensure smooth operations of the Community.
Professer Serge Tshibangu, Special Representative of the President of DRC on EAC, lauded EAC for fast-tracking the process of admission into the EAC and reiterated his country´s commitment to easing free movement of persons, labour and services in the region.
The forum attended by about 100 DRC Government officials, provided the EAC with an opportunity to enhance understanding of the officials on the integration pillars and various EAC governing instruments such as EAC protocols, laws, regulations, policies and strategies to ensure the smooth entry of the DRC in the Community.
EAC Secretary General Hon (Dr.) Peter Mathuki said that with the accession of the DRC into the Community and subsequently the deposit of the instrument of ratification, DRC was now at liberty to participate in all EAC programmes and activities.
Dr. Mathuki informed the DRC officials on the current open employment opportunities available in the EAC Organs and institutions and briefed them on the representatives required in the East African Legislative Assembly and at the East African Court of Justice.
“Our mission to DRC is set to create a platform for the EAC management to dialogue with DRC top- ranking officials on the EAC integration pillars and various EAC governing instruments such as EAC protocols, laws, regulations, policies and strategies for purposes of ensuring smooth transition for the DRC in the Community,” he noted.
The Secretary General said that DRC´s entry into the bloc provides EAC Partner States with access to an additional market of approximately 81 million people providing a large market for trade.
The total EAC imports from DRC in 2020 amounted to US$49.2 million and the EAC exports to DRC was US$584 million in the same period, with the figure expected to increase.
The major EAC imports from DRC include: wood, plants, seeds, fruits, re-melting scraps of iron or steel, and natural sands while the exports to DRC include: lime and cement, iron and steel, tobacco, beverages, spirits and vinegar, animal or vegetable fats and oils, fish, wheat gluten, sugar and confectionaries, plastics, and soap among other products.
On peace and security in the DRC, H.E. Macharia Kamau, the Special Envoy of the Kenyan President to the Nairobi Peace Process, pointed out that the security situation in the Eastern DRC continues to be of great concern.
“As we welcome the Eastern Africa Regional Force to Eastern DRC, we must do so with the recognition that the threat posed by armed groups still remains and one that requires closer cooperation and collaboration with our regional and international partners to counter and eradicate,” said Amb. Kamau.
Amb. Kamau said that concerted support to the EAC-led Nairobi process will accelerate actions aimed at reaching the set goals of both the political and military tracks of the process and at the earliest opportunity.
“There is need for each and every one to redouble their efforts to pursue dialogue, de-escalation and the use of effective national, regional and international mechanisms to resolve disputes,” said the envoy.
The envoy further stated that Kenya’s incoming government is committed to strengthening the peace initiative and called on EAC Partner States to remain committed to the agreed decisions, utilize approved frameworks and positively engage to address issues and concerns for the benefit of the region.
With the Republic of Burundi currently serving as Chair of the EAC, the Ambassador of Burundi in the DRC, H.E. Agricole Mwamba Ntirampeba, commended DRC for its warm hospitality to the EAC delegation and organising the important forum.
The envoy highlighted the importance of better connectivity such as infrastructure, telephone networks and liberalization of air services as some of the issues that need to be resolved to create a conducive business environment that can attract more investors as well as tourists.
The regional private sector led by the East African Business Council (EABC) is also expected to hold meetings with DRC entrepreneurs to explore and develop trade and investment relations.