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    Somalia joins East Africa trade bloc

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    Somalia on Friday formally signed on as the newest member of the East African Community trade bloc at the presidential residence in Kampala, Uganda.

    With fellow dignitaries in attendance, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud signed the treaty at a brief ceremony presided over by South Sudan President Salva Kirr, current EAC chairman. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also witnessed the signing — which signifies Somalia’s accession as the bloc’s eighth official member — on behalf of fellow EAC heads of state.

    Somalia’s formalized membership within the bloc comes two days after the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank approved $4.5 billion in debt forgiveness for Somalia after the Horn of Africa nation completed years of financial reforms under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, or HIPC. The move comes as Mogadishu aims to boost the country’s war-ravaged economy by expanding free trade across the region.

    Somalia’s accession follows on the heels of other major developments. The United Nations Security Council on December 1 voted unanimously to remove the final restrictions on weapons deliveries to Somalia’s government and its security forces, more than 30 years after an arms embargo was first imposed on the country.

    Meanwhile, the Somalia Government Aid Agency and Germany’s KfW Development Bank agreed Friday to a nearly $20 million project to boost capacity of Somali banks and develop agriculture, livestock, fishing, education, health and tourism.

    The EAC common market, comprising Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, was founded in 2010. Somalia’s accession expands its market and gives the bloc an additional new coastline stretching over more than 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) that holds potential for offshore resources like oil and gas.

    Source VOA

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