A report earlier prepared by an East African Community (EAC) verification mission on the DR Congo’s eligibility to join the six-member bloc is ready, as well as positive, and could be examined by the Council of Ministers sometime this month, an official has told The New Times. As he addressed the media on the occasion of his 100 days at the helm of the bloc’s Secretariat early last month, EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki, indicated that the process of admitting the DR Congo was in advanced stages, and a report on its eligibility was awaiting approval by the Council of Ministers. On Monday, Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda’s Minister of State for EAC Affairs told The New Times that not only is the report ready, but it is also positive. Nshuti said: “Yes the verification report is ready and it is positive. Soon, the Council of Ministers will meet to approve the report and then submit it to the Heads of State for their approval.” “The meeting will take place this month on a date to be agreed upon by member states.” The EAC Summit on February 27 considered the application by DR Congo to join the Community and directed the Council of Ministers to expeditiously undertake a verification mission in accordance with the EAC procedure for admission of new members into the bloc and report to the next Summit. The Sectoral Council had earlier directed the Secretariat to submit the report of the verification mission to the Council of Ministers by November. Soon afterwards, verification team comprising three experts from each partner state and an additional maximum of two experts funded by the nominating partner state were dispatched to carry out the verification mission from June 23 to July 3. The verification team, among other things, reviewed the current status of the vast resource-rich country in international law and established its level of conformity with the criteria for admission of foreign countries as provided in the EAC Treaty. Under the Treaty, criteria for admission of new countries include acceptance of the Community as set out in the Treaty; adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice; and potential contribution to the strengthening of integration within the East African region. Geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between it (the foreign country) and the EAC partner states is also an important admission criteria and the DR Congo shares a border with five of the six EAC partner states: Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan. The other criteria for admission of a new member are: establishment and maintenance of a market-driven economy; and; social and economic policies being compatible with those of the Community. The East African Business Council (EABC) has urged EAC Heads of State to “direct relevant organs to fast-track the admission” of the DR Congo into the bloc as the country, among others, offers a large market for small and medium enterprises in the region. The country is already an important trading partner of a number of EAC partner states, including Rwanda. A study conducted last year on the opportunities for trade in the DR Congo, indicated that the value of goods imported in the DR Congo in 2019, stood at $6.6 billion. Regional exports to the DR Congo in the year before, stood at $855.4 million. China, as noted, remained the major exporter of goods and services to EAC with a market share of 31.2 per cent against DR Congo’s 11.5 per cent. The DR Congo – nearly the same size as all the current EAC partner states combined – is home to vast deposits of natural resources.