Somalia in EAC bloc will bring mutual benefit

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud speaks during his inauguration ceremony in Mogadishu on June 9, 2022. 

Photo credit: AFP

The move by Somalia to join the East African Community (EAC) could be a turning point in the fortunes of the troubled nation. The regional bloc comprises Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and latest addition Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with reports of Ethiopia, which neighbours Somalia and Kenya, also keen to join.

The 21st Extra-Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State adopted the “Report of the Verification of the Application of the Federal Republic of Somalia to join EAC”. The Burundi summit further directed the Council of Ministers and the Secretariat to immediately commence the relevant negotiations with the Federal Republic of Somalia and report to the next ordinary summit.

The move would be a major victory for Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. He is keen to grow the economy and foster peace after decades of instability, especially from the consistent menace caused by the Al-Shabaab terrorist group, which has wreaked havoc with Eastern Africa for years. The Horn of Africa nation would be better positioned to collaborate with its neighbours in security challenges and counterterrorism efforts, leading to increased safety and stability in the region.

That would translate to gains in such critical areas as healthcare and education. Political benefits would include training towards promoting transparency and fighting corruption. The country could engage in regional diplomatic efforts, fostering political firmness and solving conflicts through dialogue and collaboration with neighbours.

There are economic benefits too. Somalia’s coastline, among the longest in Africa, would give it access to a larger market through cross-border trade. It is a renowned producer of fish and among the biggest consumers of khat (miraa). It’d attract foreign direct investment; investors want stable and integrated markets and developed infrastructure.

On the flip side, Somalia’s obstacles include aligning its legal framework with EAC regulations and addressing historical tensions with its neighbours.

The EAC is also bound to gain from the inclusion of Somalia. For instance, an enhanced regional security effort can lead to strong regional counterterrorism efforts, intelligence sharing and joint military operations to combat extremist groups.

For its geographic location, Somalia offers strategic access to the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. That would make it a potential gateway to markets in the Middle East and beyond and foster cultural exchange and support among EAC member states.

Somalia’s application in 2014 didn’t get immediate verification, raising queries over the fast pace in admitting South Sudan despite it facing similar security challenges, governance and capacity-related issues, and also limited economic diversification.

This is an opportunity to build a brighter future for the Somali people. But that strongly depends on the EAC’s commitment to address member states’ challenges collectively and support its development and the willingness of the Mogadishu government to actively engage in the regional community.

Mr Warfa is a former minister of Labour and member of the Federal Parliament in Somalia. @HonWarfa