Somalia’s Long-Awaited Integration Into the East African Community

Somalia’s Long-Awaited Integration Into the East African Community

Somalia’s Long-Awaited Integration Into the East African Community (Source: Shutterstock)

Somalia’s entry into the East African Community is a historic bookmark in the nation’s search for stability and economic growth

In a historic chapter for its war-torn economy, Somalia has officially become the eighth member of the East African Community (EAC). The decision, announced during the 23rd Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State in Arusha, Tanzania, holds immense significance for Somalia, which has endured three decades of conflict since 1991. The integration is expected to bring about more economic opportunities, but concerns have also been raised about the country’s readiness in the areas of governance, democracy, and security.

The EAC, established in 2000, has been a key player in promoting economic integration among member states, fostering trade, and removing customs duties. The country’s journey to join the EAC started back in 2012 when it first expressed its interest in becoming a member. However, due to internal troubles, including the presence of the al-Shabaab eco-jihadist group and a lack of political stability, Somalia’s application faced initial setbacks.

The recent approval of Somalian membership came after a renewed diplomatic effort by the country, coming just a year after the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) also joined the EAC. The country’s accession to the EAC is a pivotal step toward economic rejuvenation, offering access to a larger market and opportunities for cross-border collaboration.

Economic Implications and Trade Opportunities

The nation’s admission into the EAC opens up new avenues for economic growth and regional cooperation. With a population of around 17 million, Somalia’s inclusion expands the EAC market to more than 300 million people, boosting the bloc’s economic potential.

The EAC, comprising Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, is a unique experiment in Africa. The establishment of a common market in 2010 has facilitated economic integration, and Somalia’s entry is expected to further contribute to the bloc’s combined gross domestic product, which already stood at $305 billion, excluding it.

Somalia’s strategic location and its possession of the longest coastline on the African mainland, stretching over 3,000 kilometres, bring unique trade opportunities. The country’s coastline opens up access to the Arabian Peninsula, offering the EAC better trade routes and economic connectivity.

Entrepreneurs in the country are expected to greatly benefit from increased investment opportunities, as the EAC provides a platform for economic growth and trade expansion. The EAC’s Customs Union will benefit Somalia economically by reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers, fostering cross-border trade, and integrating the country into regional infrastructure projects.

Security Challenges and Governance Concerns

While the integration of The country into the EAC holds immense economic promise, there are legitimate concerns and challenges that need to be addressed. Somalia’s internal security situation, marked by the constant threat of al-Shabaab, is a risk for the entire bloc. EAC members, particularly Kenya and Uganda, have thus been actively involved in supporting the fight against al-Shabab in Somalia. The fear is that easier movement of individuals within the EAC will facilitate the movement of militants.

The country’s governance track record, marked by corruption and political instability, has also raised eyebrows within the EAC. Transparency International ranked Somalia as the most corrupt country in the world last year and questioned its adherence to the principles of good governance, democracy, and the rule of law – essential criteria for EAC membership.

The country has also been mired in diplomatic disputes with its neighbours, including Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya. Repairing regional ties and addressing governance issues will be critical for Somalia’s smooth integration into the EAC.

Regional Stability and Security Cooperation

Managing the nation’s security challenges will be crucial for maintaining regional stability as the EAC expands. The withdrawal of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and ongoing counter-insurgency operations by the Somali National Army are strong incentives for the bloc’s intervention.

The EAC has a proactive approach to these issues, as seen in its deployment of regional forces to the Democratic Republic of Congo after its admission last year. Negotiations and cooperation will be essential to ensure that Somalia’s security challenges do not undermine the stability of the entire EAC. The post-ATMIS landscape requires careful consideration of the EAC’s capacity to contribute to Somalia’s security and regional stability.

Somalia’s entry into the East African Community is a historic bookmark in the nation’s search for stability and economic growth. While the move will bring about economic opportunities, multifaceted challenges such as security concerns and governance issues demand a careful and collaborative approach.

Striking a delicate balance between economic growth and regional security, addressing governance issues, and fostering diplomatic relations are imperative for the success of Somalia’s integration into the EAC. As Somalia embraces this new chapter, the EAC faces the responsibility of guiding the nation toward a future of stability, prosperity, and harmonious regional cooperation.

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