The DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi on Friday, April 8, signed the Treaty of accession by his country to the East African Community (EAC). This was during a ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya, attended by his host and Chairperson of the EAC Heads of State Summit, President Uhuru Kenyatta as well as Rwanda and Uganda Presidents, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, respectively. The DR Congo became the seventh member of the Community on March 29 when the EAC Heads of State, during their 19th Ordinary Summit, admitted it. At the time, President Kenyatta, said he looked forward to the DR Congo signing the Treaty of Accession before April 14. Kenyatta reiterated that DR Congo’s admission “will strengthen our economic muscle and competitiveness in the continent as well as globally.” He added: “To my brother and friend President Tshisekedi and to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we welcome you to the East African Community Customs Union and the East African Community Common Market. President Kagame attended the signing ceremony hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta and attended by President Museveni and President Tshisekedi, who has just signed the treaty of accession making the DRC the 7th member of @jumuiya. pic.twitter.com/HJplPqBRTv — Presidency | Rwanda (@UrugwiroVillage) April 8, 2022 These two are the signature pillars of our community and the foundation upon which the social, political, trade, investment and economic interests stand.” Tshisekedi’s accession signature immediately brought the DR Congo into the realms and provisions of all the protocols and regional policies of the EAC. “It 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, in time, lead to a major increase in intra- East African Community trade,” Kenyatta added. Kenyatta said the DR Congo is required to honour the attended commitments. He appealed to the DR Congo to conclude the remaining domestic processes and deposit the instruments of ratification within the stipulated six-month period. “Our community is people centered and private sector driven. Member states of the East African Community remain committed to advancing and promoting the private sector’s interests as provided under article 127 of our Treaty. Furthermore, partner states have committed to stimulating market development through infrastructural linkages, promoting conducive investment codes, protecting property rights and other rights, and the proper regulation of our private sector,” Kenyatta said. To this end, he said, all partner states will welcome and establish immediate linkages “between our business associations” and those of the DR Congo so as to further develop trade relations in the region. Tshisekedi noted that his country will play its role in the bloc so that it can become stronger and prosperous. The Congolese President announced his interest in introducing a new institution for managing natural resources within the bloc. He said its role would be limited to research and management in addition optimizing the environment of natural resources in the sub region. Museveni said that “when we talk of integration, we are talking of three things” including prosperity and strategic security. Kagame on his part said the leaders have made many speeches in the past and therefore noted that they “just have to get down to do the work that is entailed in the statements we have made to our people.” “And I am with you all the way to achieving the objectives of the deeper and wider integration of our community,” Kagame said. What next? After signing the Treaty of accession, DR Congo now has up to September 29, a period of six months, to undertake internal and constitutional processes to ratify the EAC Treaty and submit to the EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki, and subsequently join all programmes and activities of the bloc. Regional leaders earlier directed the Council of Ministers to develop a road map for DR Congo’s full integration into the bloc. The road map is going to be developed by the EAC Secretariat together with the DR Congo, Mathuki said on Friday. This road map is expected to be presented during the next EAC Summit. A date for the next Summit has not yet been announced. In the coming days, EAC ministers and technical experts will move with speed to integrate the DR Congo into the organs of the bloc, including the East African Court of Justice, the East African Legislative Assembly, and sectoral committees on essential matters such as security, finance, trade, industry, defense, agriculture, aviation, and international cooperation. The process to admit Kinshasa started when Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi on June 8, 2019, wrote to then EAC Chairperson, President Paul Kagame, expressing his country’s wish to be a member of the bloc. Regional leaders on February 27, 2021 considered the application by DR Congo to join the Community and directed Ministers to expeditiously undertake a verification mission in accordance with the EAC procedure for admission of new members. By becoming the seventh member, the DR Congo is expected to bolster the bloc’s economic potentialthrough various ways including opening the corridor from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as North to South, hence expanding the economic potential of the region. Kenyas Permanent Secretary for EAC affairs, Kevit Desai, who chairs the bloc’s Principal and Permanent Secretaries coordination committee, sees DR Congo’s entry as “a game-changer to the bloc’s trade performance given its natural resources base and a huge consumer market” of nearly 90 million people, almost half the population of the EAC. The bloc’s new member is, among other things, the world’s biggest producer of cobalt, a major component in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles, and Africa’s main copper producer. It is a major producer of gold, diamonds, uranium, coltan, oil and other precious metals, making it one of the most resource-rich countries in the world. According to Desai, these resources, coupled with appropriate transport infrastructure, can boost the EAC’s industrialisation agenda, given also that DR Congo share borders with five of the six EAC countries – Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan and Tanzania.