New dawn in DR Congo could do with a more organised EAC

I hope by now we have all gotten a chance to experience that tantalising scent when some rain falls on dry soil: Petrichor is the word for it. For a while now the cries about the heat had grown into a huge regional chorus.

The rains have finally showed up and the dry soil has been trying to quench its thirst as much as possible. I do hope that the harsh weather served as a good reminder for us to be gentle with mother earth. We need to plant more trees and reduce on our addiction for putting concrete in every space.

It is sad that as we craved the rains, down south they faced the wrath of Tropical Cyclone Idai that hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi claiming close to 1000 lives with many still missing. We have gotten used to hearing about such disasters in far of places but with climate change it appears no one is safe from the wrath of Mother Nature.

As if that is not enough, in South Africa it looks like the xenophobia wave was reignited once again. The reckless talk by politicians that incites people to go after immigrants needs to stop immediately. It is 2019 and we should be working with, not against each other.

The news that warmed my heart the most was the announcement that RwandAir is set to launch direct flights between Kigali and Kinshasa the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo in a month’s time.

This was one of the fruits from the bilateral talks between Rwanda and DR Congo with the visit of their newly elected president Félix Tshisekedi. RwandAir has been flying to Brazzaville which is not that far from Kinshasa but the need for a direct link to Kinshasa remained.

DR Congo is a strategic trading partner with Rwanda and a vast country that has strong links with all other East African countries. Its size allows it to share borders with South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Even though it does not touch the Kenyan territory, the distance from the Dar port into DR Congo is almost the same as that from Mombasa and so the reliance on the major EAC ports is significant indeed.

For Rwanda, a direct flight from Kigali to Kinshasa is great news for both travellers and cargo. There is a huge Congolese community in Rwanda as well as Rwandans with roots in DR Congo who will be happy to receive this information from RwandAir.

A lot of cargo destined for DR Congo relies on the EAC roads especially when it comes to serving the Eastern Congo areas. With an option of air, some of that cargo will get to Kinshasa which is on the other extreme end of the country.

However, it is important to note that even without being part of the EAC, DR Congo and EAC need each other a lot. The entire EAC either export to DR Congo or see DRC goods going through them before getting to their intended markets far away from the DRC lands.

For long the DR Congo has been unstable and therefore unable to properly trade with its neighbours. Now with a new leader in President Félix Tshisekedi, and a sense of hope for the country, this would be a great time for the EAC to get its house in order and focus on trading with this African giant of a country.  

The EAC has over the years grown from being a three-country bloc to having Rwanda, Burundi and recently South Sudan joining. These countries are brought together by historical and trade ties that go back to the days before a few white men met in Berlin to draw borders around the same countries.

I am sure that a stable DR Congo will make a good candidate to join the regional bloc that is largely focused on easing the movement of goods and people.  

However for this to happen effectively, EAC should get its house in order by sorting pending issues amongst the existing members. A lot of progress the region made is now at stake unless non-tariff barriers and threats to the stability of members like Rwanda are not addressed immediately.

With Tanzania and Uganda also reviving their national airlines, the region will surely want in on this large DRC pie. I am sure DR Congo would also be hesitant to join a trade bloc that is not organised.



Twitter: @ssojo81

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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