The East African Community (EAC), a prominent trade bloc, officially welcomed Somalia as its eighth member on Friday, November 24th, a move expected to bolster the war-torn country’s struggling economy.
The EAC common market, established in 2010, includes Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, encompassing a population of nearly 300 million individuals.
Before Somalia’s inclusion, the collective land area of the East African Community (EAC) member countries spanned approximately 1.8 million square miles, with a combined gross domestic product amounting to over $300 billion, as per data from the bloc’s official website.
Additionally, the total trade within the EAC reached $78.75 billion in 2022, as reported by the official EAC website.
Daud Aweis, Somalia’s Minister for Information, Culture, and Tourism, expressed optimism, stating, “Somalia officially joins the East African Community, reinforcing ties and opening new doors for progress and partnership.”
Somalia’s inclusion in the EAC not only enlarges the bloc’s market reach but also adds a large coastline, spanning over 3,000 kilometers, rich in potential offshore resources like oil and gas.
This expansion presents an opportunity for Somalia to tap into the EAC’s large population, customs union, and common market, which are attractive to investors.
Despite the EAC’s strides in economic integration, challenges such as bureaucratic hurdles, political instability, inadequate infrastructure, and trade disputes persist within the bloc.
Somalia’s admission, long-awaited due to its history of instability, marks a turning point.
The nation, with a population of around 17 million, has grappled with insurgency from al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab since 2006, raising concerns about the ease of movement for militants and contraband across the region.
These security concerns led Kenya to delay plans to reopen its border with Somalia following a string of attacks in northern Kenya attributed to al Shabaab fighters.
However, Somalia’s private sector is expected to cause a potential economic boom to the EAC. Somali businesses, having endured challenging conditions, are expected to bring a new wave of risk-tolerant entrepreneurs to the bloc.
The integration is also anticipated to facilitate financial accessibility for the extensive Somali Diaspora in East Africa.