Color photo of historical globe showing the African continent with all countries, DR Congo in central position of the African continent with 50 countries

Democratic Republic of the Congo joins East African Community

The heads of state of the East African Community (EAC) agreed to include the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at their March 2022 summit. This makes the DR Congo the seventh and youngest member of the Community, joining Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan. The BDI welcomes this step towards regional integration and free trade.

For the DRC, accession means that the country will benefit from the EAC's joint market and  External Customs Tariff, as well as access to the Indian Ocean ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam. Export duties to existing EAC countries will be eliminated or significantly reduced. At the same time, for the DRC, tariffs on goods entering Mombasa and Dar es Salaam will decrease. Travel for Congolese citizens within the EAC will also be facilitated.

What does accession mean for the EAC?

For the EAC countries, the inclusion of DR Congo means gaining a potential market of over 80 million inhabitants. This will make the EAC one of Africa's largest trading blocs with access to the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

In recent years, the share of EAC exports to the DRC has averaged only 13.5 percent. In contrast, most Congolese imports come from outside East Africa, such as the EU, China and the USA. The reduction of tariffs on goods and elimination of trade restrictions between the partner states strengthens the free movement of goods and services and thus contributes to more investment as well as job opportunities in East Africa.

The EAC is also opening up to the Congolese economy, which is rich in natural resources such as cobalt and copper. The DRC is the world's largest producer of cobalt and Africa's most important copper producer. Cobalt is an important component in the production of batteries for electric vehicles. Together with infrastructure development, this can drive the EAC's industrialization agenda.

What are the challenges?

It will be several months before the measures adopted, such as the dismantling of travel restrictions, take effect. The integration of the DRC into the EAC also brings with it a number of challenges. These include:

  1. unstable security situation related to armed groups in the resource-rich east of the country

  2. poor infrastructure

  3. language barriers

Thus, English and Swahili are currently the official languages of the EAC. With the admission of the DR Congo, the number of French speakers in the EAC increases greatly.

Finally, with the agreed admission, the DRC is simultaneously member of four different regional integration communities, which increases the complexity of cooperation: COMESA, SADC, ECCAS, and now the EAC.

What does accession imply for German companies?

For German exporters and investors, accession offers a larger market. Overall, EAC enlargement is a step toward a Pan-African free trade area. In the long term, this will facilitate investment and trade by German companies with the more than 50 African countries.