President Paul Kagame on Friday joined leaders of the East African Community (EAC) in Nairobi, Kenya at the signing ceremony of the treaty of accession by the Democratic Republic of Congo to the East African Community(EAC).
The Head of State joined President Uhuru Kenyatta, the current chair of the EAC, President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi of DRC and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda at the ceremony at which the DRC leader official signed the accession treaty that makes DRC a member of EAC formally.
In his remarks after the signing ceremony, President Kagame congratulated DR Congo for joining the EAC and pledged to work more closely with all member countries to deepen integration.
He challenged fellow EAC leaders to now move from speeches and move towards doing the actual work that will foster regional integration to the people of EAC going forward, thanking President Uhuru Kenyatta for convening the meeting and the Kenyan people for the hospitality.
“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 deeper and wider integration of our community,” President Kagame said.
Presidents Uhuru and Tshisekedi signed the treaty of accession before the new look EAC map, with seven countries, including new member DRC, was unveiled.
The signing of the treaty of accession follows the admission of DR Congo into the EAC as the seventh member of the regional bloc during the virtual 19th Extraordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State chaired by President Kenyatta on March 29.
Welcoming DR Congo into the EAC, President Kenyatta said the coming of the new member into the Community will open doors of opportunity for expanded trade and cooperation.
“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,” President Kenyatta said.
The Kenyan leader added that the accession of DR Congo as a member of the EAC will also strengthen the economic muscle and competitiveness of the regional economic bloc in the continent as well as globally.
“To my brother and friend President Tshishekedi and the people of the DRC, we welcome you to the EAC Customs Union and the EAC Common Market.
“These two are the signature pillars of our community and the foundation upon which the social, political, trade, investment and economic interests stand,” President Kenyatta said.
President Kenyatta, who is also the chairman of the EAC, pointed out that the accession signature immediately brings DR Congo into the realms and provisions of all the protocols and regional policies of the EAC.
President Kenyatta said 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, saying with time this will lead to a major increase in inter-EAC trade.
In this regard, President Kenyatta urged DR Congo to conclude the remaining domestic processes as per its constitution and deposit the instruments of ratification within the stipulated six months period.
The President assured that the Community shall also develop a mechanism for the speedy ratification by DR Congo of the admission of submissions of the Community to the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) processes.
“As agreed by the EAC partner states, the joint submission by EAC will strengthen our voice in the AfCFTA,” President Kenyatta said.
He commended President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda for the zeal with which he galvanized support from member states for the DR Congo to join the EAC.
On his part, President Tshishekedi said the admission of DR Congo into the EAC was a fulfilment of dreams held by his country’s ancestors more than 60 years ago, adding that it marked a decisive shift in the country’s foreign and economic policy.
“DR Congo will actively play its role within the community so that it can become more stronger and more prosperous,” President Tshishekedi said.
Presidents Museveni, EAC Secretary General Dr. Peter Mutuku Mathuki and Kenya’s Industrialization and Trade Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina who holds the East African Community docket in acting capacity and also chairs the EAC Council of Ministers, also spoke during the ceremony.
President Museveni emphasized the importance of integration, saying it accelerates prosperity through the provision of a broader market for goods and improves regional strategic security.
The Ugandan leader added that the integration of African countries is easier because they share common social infrastructure including language unlike in Europe where language barrier is a big problem.
The EAC Heads of State wrapped up the ceremony, also witnessed by development partners and representatives of the private sector, by unveiling the new map of the East African Community.