Somalia has officially become the eighth member of the East African Community (EAC), a regional trade bloc that it has been actively seeking to join since 2012. The admission, announced at a summit in Tanzania, underscores Somalia’s commitment to expanding free trade across the region and is a significant step toward strengthening economic ties with fellow EAC member states.
Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, the outgoing EAC chair, made the announcement, noting that the inclusion of Somalia under the treaty of accession marks a pivotal moment in the bloc’s history. The Horn of Africa nation, with a population of 17 million, is expected to enhance the EAC market to over 300 million people, providing ample opportunities for economic growth and collaboration.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia, present at the summit, expressed optimism about this new chapter in the nation’s history. His chief economic adviser, commenting on the platform formerly known as Twitter, emphasized that the moment signifies not just the culmination of aspirations but a beacon of hope for a future filled with possibilities and opportunities.
The East African Community, headquartered in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, was established in 2000 to encourage trade by eliminating customs duties between member states. In 2010, the EAC took a significant step forward by establishing a common market. Excluding Somalia, the combined EAC countries covered a land area of 4.8 million square kilometers (1.8 million square miles) with a combined gross domestic product of $305 billion. The total EAC trade in 2022 amounted to $78.75 billion.
However, the admission of Somalia into the EAC is not without its challenges. The country has been grappling with security issues, particularly in its efforts to combat the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group. The EAC, already facing security concerns with deployments in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, may find itself contending with additional challenges.
A report by the Mogadishu-based think tank, Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, acknowledged Somalia’s pivotal leap in the EAC’s expansion across East Africa but highlighted potential hindrances. Concerns about Somalia’s governance, human rights record, and adherence to the rule of law could impact its smooth integration into the bloc. Additionally, historical disputes with neighbors, including Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya, have at times strained diplomatic relations, although recent efforts have been made to repair regional ties.
As Somalia embarks on this new phase of regional integration, the East African Community anticipates not only the economic benefits of a larger market but also the shared responsibility of addressing the challenges that may arise. The admission of Somalia into the EAC signals a commitment to unity, collaboration, and the collective pursuit of prosperity in East Africa.
Author: Ridwan Yusuf Mohamud
Editor in Chief of Somali Magazine