Just a few weeks after the Democratic Republic of Congo ratified the East African Community Treaty on July 11, the bloc’s leaders agreed to fast-track the verification of Somalia’s application to join the community.
Sitting on July 22, 2022, at the East African Community Secretariat in Arusha, Tanzania, the East African Community Heads of State Summit agreed to fast-track the verification of Somalia’s application, which was first submitted in 2012.
The EAC Summit directed the Council of Ministers to carry out the verification exercise under the EAC procedure for admission of new members into the EAC and report to the 23rd meeting of the Summit.
This directive followed Somalia’s President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, formally requesting the Summit to consider his country’s application to be the eighth partner state of the East African Community. During his address at the High-Level Retreat of the EAC Common Market protocol, President Muhamud enumerated why Somalia should join the EAC bloc.
Somalia’s first application was met with a lack of enthusiasm from some member countries, thanks to its internal political problems. However, in 2019, Mohamed Farmajo, then Somali President, reapplied alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo. Interestingly, in February 2021, the bloc admitted DR Congo ahead of Somalia.
The new Somali President, Mohamud, said he understands where Somalia is coming from. He further noted that Somalia now feels ready to play its part using its pool of entrepreneurs. The president also pointed out that Somalia’s expansive 3,000km long coastline on the Indian Ocean can boost the regional economies.
According to the President, Somalia belongs to East Africa because there is no country among the seven EAC countries that is not linked to Somalia by business, by the community, or by other means.
Under the EAC Treaty, there are criteria to follow for the admission of new countries into the community. These include acceptance of the community, adherence to the principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, and fulfilling human rights and social justice.
Other criteria include contributing to the strengthening of the East African region integration within, geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between the foreign country and the EAC partner states. The establishment and maintenance of a market-driven economy, and compatible social and economic policies with those of the community.
Somalia passes most of the criteria mentioned above. To the northeast, Somalia shares a border with Kenya, one of the East African Community’s members. Somali citizens have showed their business acumen in the region. Some manage vibrant businesses in Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda despite not being a full member of the East African Community. Because of Somalia’s long history of political unrest, most of its citizens have also found a more peaceful home within the East African Community – although many live as refugees.
Should the country become a full member of the EAC, Somali citizens will have the freedom to move and do business across the bloc. The country would also benefit from the economic, political and social support programs of the EAC. Under the 1999 EAC Treaty, if Somalia joins the East African Community, it would have visa-free entry to the EAC countries, be eligible for East African passports, and have tax-free access to the EAC market.
President Yoweri Museveni supports Somalia’s recent bid, saying it has all qualifications to join the EAC. According to Museveni, these credentials include sharing a border with one of the EAC countries, having a private sector-led economy and being a democratic country. The president of Uganda was speaking during the closing ceremony of the inaugural Uganda-Somalia Business and Investment Summit in August.
Attended by President Muhamud, the summit held at Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala aimed at providing a platform for Ugandan and Somali private sector/business community together with other relevant stakeholders such as Government Ministries, Agencies, and Departments to exchange views and ideas freely.
Should Somalia get admitted, it will become the fifth largest state in the bloc, just behind Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and DR Congo.