Legislators have welcomed the admission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the East African Community (EAC), saying that the development provides huge economic benefits to the country.
They were responding to the statement by the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Affairs, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, during plenary on Thursday, 21 April 2022 on the admission of DRC into the EAC.
The premier said that admission of DRC gives the region a combined population of over 300 million, which expands the market.
“This provides opportunities to produce and sell goods and services. This will enhance the prosperity of our people,” she said.
Kadaga added that the development will ensure a global connectivity from the Indian to the Atlantic oceans.
“For a landlocked country like Uganda, it is good if we have a route to the sea and Indian Ocean. This will support the existing corridors for the movement of goods and people into the hinterland of the community,” she said.
Kadaga said that she will present a memorandum to Cabinet on Uganda’s strategy on competitively tapping into the DRC.
“There will be need for financial resources to enable the Ministry of EAC effectively participate in all activities related to the integration of DRC,” said Kadaga.
Sheema Municipality MP, Hon. Dicksons Kateshumbwa said that whilst the admission is a great achievement, government needs to devise a strategy to competitively tapping into the DRC.
“I would like to propose to the Prime Minister that we should look at other areas like education. I know that there are a lot of opportunities in education, and now that we are looking at languages we will have students from DRC coming to study in Uganda, not forgetting the potential of Uganda’s tourism sector,” said Kateshumbwa.
Hon. Agnes Ameede (Indep. Butebo district) advised government to engage in tangible negotiations for structured economic relationships with DRC.
“DRC being a French-speaking country, they (DRC) would need English teachers from Uganda. We should look at the human resource benefit of the admission of DRC,” said Ameede.
Arua Central Division MP, Hon. Jackson Atima said that DRC presents Uganda with the opportunity of importing timber.
“Uganda is well-positioned to benefit and we need to support government efforts to restore security in DRC,” said Atima.
Hon. Joel Senyonyi (NUP, Nakawa Division West) said that Uganda needs to expedite the implementation of the use of the national identity cards as a travel document within the EAC to ease movement.
“We still have a challenge, may be it is time for us to focus on local manufacturers so that we have enough to export, we must have what to export. We need to support the local manufacturers by waiving taxes,” Ssenyonyi added.
The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Mathias Mpuuga, called for increased sensitisation of member states on the benefits of the integration.
“We need to offer a sensitisation platform and make it easy for individuals and business people to cross borders. In Kinshasa, one of the biggest jobs for Ugandans is mechanical engineering but people are not aware,” he said.
Mpuuga added: “This integration should go into deeper political corporations to democratise EAC bloc. We should have common values of democracy, human rights and improving livelihoods of the people, then it will make sense.”
Hon. Stella Isodo (FDC, Ngora district) said that the admission of DRC should motivate government to improve on the road infrastructure, especially the standard gauge railway.
“Uganda had started on the project and now is the time for us to put in more effort,’ she said.
Hon. Godfrey Onzima (NRM, Aringa North County) said that whilst the admission of DRC provides opportunities, the Ugandan government should ensure that the member states address recurring challenges of trade restrictions on Uganda by some member states.
“There are Ugandans who have been trading in products like milk and eggs and faced restrictions. We have cases where some borders are closed to Ugandans. Admitting a new country should be a meaningful one,” he said.
DRC was admitted into the EAC on 08 April 2022, following the signing of the treaty of Accession by Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta and his DRC counterpart, Felix Antoine Tshisekede.
The DRC is expected to commence full participation in EAC meetings, projects and programmes in October 2022, if all the prescribed steps and guidelines are complied with and in the set timelines.