The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has backed the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as the East African Community (EAC) seventh member, saying the move will boost the regional bloc’s market by half to 300 million people and create new investment opportunities.
The EAC common market, which consists of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, was set up in 2010 to allow the free movement of goods and people across borders and is one of the most advanced trading blocs on the continent.
“The admission of the DRC as the seventh member—joining Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda—expands the market size of the EAC, offers a path between the seas for trade and cultural integration, as well as new investment and employment opportunities for a dynamic population of about 300 million,” CBK said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The uniting of the seven members provides a clear path to shared prosperity and a common destiny.”
Equity Group earlier established operations in DRC in anticipation of its integration into the trade bloc.
The group bought a majority stake in the Banque Commerciale du Congo in 2020, extending its footprint in a market that, in terms of financial inclusion, resembles Kenya in the 1990s, with just 6 percent of the population covered by banks, according to Equity.
The DRC’s admission to the EAC also means it joins the institutions of the Community, including the EAC's Monetary Affairs Committee (MAC) which is a committee drawn from the six Central Banks from the EAC bloc allowing for more regional cooperation by financial regulators, said the CBK.
EAC central bankers have been laying the groundwork for EAC single currency which is expected to enhance economic integration.
“On behalf of my fellow EAC Central Bank Governors, I warmly welcome the people of the DRC into the East African Community…We look forward to working together for the prosperity of our people,” said Dr Njoroge.
Central bankers said earlier some of the milestones towards the goal include the creation of key institutions such as the East African Monetary Institute (EAMI) and harmonisation of monetary and exchange rate policies as well as regulatory frameworks.
“In particular, I am pleased to welcome Mme. Malangu Kabedi-Mbuyi, Governor of the Banque Centrale du Congo, to the MAC. While my fellow EAC Central Bank Governors and I have had the occasion to work closely with Mme. Kabedi-Mbuyi on numerous initiatives, she will now be an integral member of the MAC,” said Dr Njoroge.
DRC's admission as a full member will boost the common market's annual economic output by a quarter, said President Uhuru Kenyatta, who chairs the EAC's heads of state summit, the top decision-making body, earlier.
DRC -the mineral-rich nation of about 90 million people - has for long been a global investment destination.
It is the world’s number 1 cobalt producer and Africa’s top copper miner.
Late last year, Equity organised a trade mission to Congo, composed of Kenyan traders, firms and investors, which generated a deals pipeline of more than $1 billion, Equity said last week, adding that underscores the opportunities.
DRC is banking on EAC help to tackle insecurity in the eastern part of the country, where armed militias have disturbed peace for many years.