What you need to know:
- Kenya will this year hold the positions of three of the top organs of the the East African Community.
- The region is facing several challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic that has battered economies.
All eyes are on Kenya as it takes up the leadership of the East African Community (EAC). For the first time in two decades, Kenya will this year hold the positions of three of the top organs of the organisation.
With his swearing in last Friday, Dr Peter M. Mathuki, the new secretary-general and head of the EAC secretariat, joins President Uhuru Kenyatta, current chair of the summit of Heads of State and government, and Mr Adan Mohamed – the Cabinet Secretary for East African Community and Regional Development – who chairs EAC’s Council of Ministers.
The three have the unenviable task of reviving an organisation facing multiple institutional and operational challenges that have nearly eroded both its capacity and legitimacy to pursue its mandate effectively.
The region is facing several challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic that has battered economies, insecurity, and the declining intra-EAC trade and unemployment.
While President Kenyatta has pledged his commitment to strengthen the bloc and deepen integration, he is yet to show a clear blueprint on his reform agenda for the organisation.
One of the decisions the trio must make will definitely be on the expansion of the EAC, with the accession of the Democratic Republic of Congo expected as early as the next Summit, which could happen this year, and the application of Somalia also pending.
No doubt the entry of DRC will constitute the biggest expansion of the community yet, and the benefits of its membership cannot be overstated.
For one, the DRC will bring with it a market of 86.7 million, exceeding the combined population of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Further, DRC is richly endowed in natural resources and will provide the Community with opportunities for trade in new products.
As if to underscore the strategic significance of DRC, President Kenyatta has last week moved to sign a raft of bilateral agreements on transport, security and trade with the country, and will no doubt wish to have these accommodated within the framework of EAC integration.
The writers are regional integration experts.