Kenya gears up to tap into massive DR Congo market
Kenya is positioning itself for immediate gain from the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the East African Community (EAC), in a move investors say would accelerate prosperity through the provision of a broader market for goods and services.
President Felix Tshisekedi of DR Congo signed the Deed of Accession with EAC Heads of State Summit chair President Uhuru Kenyatta, as per the requirements of the EAC admission process, at a ceremony held on Friday at State House Nairobi.
The event marked the 10th and last step in the process of admission into the regional bloc which has now increased the consumer base for goods and services in the East African region by an extra 90 million. DR Congo joins Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Burundi, and Rwanda, to form one of the largest economic blocs in Africa.
Already things appear to be looking up for Kenya as it gears up to gain from the entry after the two countries signed a bilateral cooperation agreement on Friday in the agricultural, livestock and fisheries sectors.
The objectives of the agreement include promoting higher agricultural productivity in Kenya and DR Congo, encouraging joint investment ventures between the respective private entrepreneurs, as well as boosting mutually beneficial trade between the two countries.
Some of the key areas of cooperation covered by the agreement include crop development and promotion, agricultural and livestock research, animal health and production. Other areas are fishing, aquaculture and the blue economy, the marketing of agricultural products and the promotion of youth in agricultural programmes such as 4K clubs.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his DR Congo counterpart witnessed the signing of the agreement in Nairobi. While acknowledging the importance of the DRC in the region, President Kenyatta said its membership will open doors for expanded trade and cooperation.
“Inclusion of DRC into the community will put EAC in a better position to combine resources to develop the much-needed infrastructure, especially the main transit corridors running from East to West,” he said. “With the accession of the DRC, our community’s population now stands at about 300 million and our combined gross domestic product (GDP) will now stand at $250 billion.”
“The signing will be followed by the immediate removal of all existing non-tariff barriers as well as limitations on the movement of capital, goods, services and people. This will lead to a major increase in intra-EAC trade,” said President Kenyatta.
Kenyan firms have already shown interest in expanding investment in the DRC. Last year, Equity Group, East Africa’s largest banking group, sponsored a two-week trade mission as they announced plans to fund Kenyan businesses setting up shop or expanding into the country.
Speaking at the signing of the deed of accession event, President Tshisekedi said that the signing of the treaty had firmed the commitments made by DRC during its admission into the community by the Summit of EAC Heads of State.
“The move would lead to the consolidation of economic benefits to the peoples of DRC and EAC,” he said. Members states of EAC are already mapping out opportunities for bilateral trade, investment, and opportunities in trade in DR Congo.
However, modalities that are yet to be put in place mean that the earliest EA member states can start reaping fully from the trade agreements is towards the end of 2022. East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Member of Parliament Aden Abdikadir said that the roadmap for integration of DRC into the EAC is going to be developed by the EAC Secretariat in conjunction with DRC.
Reduce trade time
This will involve the integration of EAC’s trade infrastructure, connectivity, One-Stop Border Posts (OSBPs), and trade systems to reduce trade time and costs.“The earliest the DRC’s members of Parliament will be able to join the East African Legislative Assembly is by December 2022 when the elections for new EALA members will be made,” said Aden.
President Kagame challenged fellow EAC leaders to now move from mere rhetoric to action to foster regional integration. “We have made many speeches in the recent past. We just have to get down to do the work that is entailed in the statements we have made to our people.
“I am with you all the way to achieve the objective of a deeper and wider integration of our community,” President Kagame said.