Kenya has expressed optimism that the entry of Somalia into the East African Community will help the country solve its stability challenges.
Cabinet Secretary for EAC, ASALs and Regional Development Penina Malonza says the entry of the fragile Horn of Africa nation, which has a population of 17 million will boost the EAC market and also make it easy to solve the challenges facing it jointly with other nations.
“The entry of Somalia is a benefit to the region because its entry into the community will make the other countries help in solving its challenges towards stability,” says Malonza.
Speaking during the East African Community Week celebrating the rich tapestry of East African diversity, Malonza said Kenya is fully committed to ensure Somalia is fully integrated into the community.
The government admitted that the admission of Somalia could come with more challenges for the bloc as the country is struggling to stem a deadly rebellion by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group, but a joint effort by the community will stem the problem.
“I understand that we have had our challenges as a region because of terrorism but as we come together, we are going to address the issue of terrorism that has affected Somalia. Their entry will now make other member states focus on Somalia,” said Malonza.
Admission of Somalia to the community follows last week’s decision by the 23rd Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State in Arusha.
The meeting that succeeded the EAC High-Level Forum on Climate Change and Food Security also saw President Salva Kiir take over as the Chairperson of the Summit of EAC Heads of State.
He succeeds his Burundian counterpart Évariste Ndayishimiye whose tenure has come to a close.
Somalia’s admission into the regional bloc is a product of negotiations as directed by the 22nd Extraordinary Summit.
According to Malonza, Somali’s entry presents an opportunity to the region to further integrate, expanding opportunities to the people.
She says the move will boost connectivity, enhance trade and accelerate Somalia’s transformation plan.
The Somalia coastline — among the longest in Africa — presents massive blue economy resources such as fish to the region.
Besides the admission of Somalia into the bloc, the Summit also deliberated on the progress of the EAC- Led Nairobi Process on Restoration of Peace and Stability in Eastern DRC.
The Summit also asked Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to expedite the conclusion of the EAC Political Confederation public consultation by mid next year.
“We have decided to admit the Federal Republic of Somalia under the treaty of accession,” outgoing EAC chair, Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, said at a summit of the grouping in Tanzania.
The EAC secretariat, headquartered in the Tanzanian town of Arusha where the summit was taking place, was founded in 2000 and works to encourage trade by removing customs duties between member states.
It established a common market in 2010. Excluding Somalia, combined EAC countries covered a land area of 4.8 million sq kilometres (1.8 million sq miles) and had a combined gross domestic product of $305bn, according to the bloc’s website. Total EAC trade was $78.75bn in 2022, it said.
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