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The New Times – Rwanda
By: Fred K. Nkusi
Recently, the Democratic Republic of Congo formally applied for admission to the East African Community (EAC). The EAC is a regional intergovernmental organisation whose current Partner States are: the Republics of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania.
The Republic of South Sudan acceded to the EAC Treaty on 15 April 2016 and is now a full member as of 15 August 2016.
Prior to analysing the varied interests to the EAC bloc, it is quite interesting to analyse whether the DRC application is conformable to the EAC Treaty, the principal governing instrument of the Community.
The EAC is a closed organisation as opposed to an open organisation. To illustrate, a closed organisation specially formed to be either from a regional perspective or for a functional perspective. In this context, the EAC is a closed organisation of a regional perspective.
In the pursuit of its core mandate, the EAC discharges its duties in the interests of the Community, in turn to the benefits of its citizens, and in the light of the EAC Treaty, under Article 3, and implementing Protocols [notably Customs Union and Common Market].
Indeed, in a closed organisation, all interactions only happen within the specific system, which means closed systems are shut off from the outside environment, and every interaction is transmitted inside that closed system.
Under Article 3, paragraph 3, of the EAC Treaty embodies the essential requirements to be taken into account by the Partner States in considering the application by a foreign country to become a member and participate in any of the activities of the Community, shall meet the following: 1) acceptance of the Community as set out in this Treaty; 2) adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice; 3) potential contribution to the strengthening of integration within the East African region; 4) geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between it and the Partner States; 5) establishment and maintenance of a market driven economy; 6) social and economic policies being compatible with those of the Community.
As a matter of principle, and in the light of the point one of the preceding paragraph, the DRC, in expressing interest to join the Community, must accept, or accede to, the obligations under the governing treaty of the Community. Additionally, it must be willing and able to carry out those obligations.
In relation to fundamental human rights values, like many countries, the DRC laws must embody adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice.
In my countries these core human rights values are contained in the Constitution. However, the level of realization of these fundamental values is a different thing, and varies from a country to another.
With regard to geographical proximity to and inter-dependence between it [the DRC] and the Partner States of the EAC, the DRC is bordering Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. In fact, most economic blocs are formed by countries within the same geographic region.
Close geographic proximity facilitates transportation of products, labor, and other factors of production. Neighbouring countries also tend to share culture and language.
The effect of geographic distance has potential impact on trade. A geographically close country in a particular region may increase integration, trade, cooperation and interaction.
In addition, geographical proximity may improve market driven economy in terms of frontier delivery networks for consumers and suppliers at the retail and wholesale levels. These levels of interaction would increase the greater geographic market.
It is important to stress that one of the most important benefits of regional interaction is to create a bigger market, which has potential spillover effects among Partner States.
The results suggest a competitive effect flowing from the free movement of goods, people, labour, services and capital from one Partner State to another as well as the rights of establishment and residence without restrictions.
To accelerate economic growth and development, it means that the EAC Partner States maintain a liberal stance towards those freedoms of movement for all the factors of production.
Furthermore, consideration of the DRC application into EAC may enhance security within the region given that in recent years there have subversive activities which affected countries in the eastern part of the DRC.
As such, it is of paramount importance to bring the DRC onboard as a means of enhancing security cooperation. This can be reflected in the ‘Final Communique’ of the Quadripartite Summit between the Heads of State of Angola, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, held on 12 July 2019, in Luanda, capital of Angola.
During the Summit, the Heads of State welcomed the efforts of the DRC authorities to ensure peace and security in the entire national terriory, especially the eastern part of the country. In this regard, no one can underestimate the importance of the regional security.
However, the decision to the admission of a new member is in the province of all Partner States. And such a decision cannot be taken by a single country but a collective decision.
Ahramonline – Egypt
By: Doaa El-Bey
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was the highlight of the African Union summit in Niamey, the capital of Niger, earlier this week.
The landmark 55-nation AfCFTA “will reinforce our negotiating position on the international stage. It will represent an important step,” Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said at the summit’s opening ceremony on Sunday. Egypt is the African Union (AU) chairman throughout 2019. AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki described the free trade deal as a “historic” moment.
The start of the free trade zone was widely hailed by the media as well as political commentators.
Mohamed Hegazi, former deputy to Egypt’s foreign minister, described it as the first step in the road towards the development of the continent.
“But it is just one step on the long road of development that is outlined in the 2063 Agenda for Africa,” Hegazi pointed out.
AfCFTA, which is meant to strengthen inter-African trade and thereby improve the continent’s economic standing on the world market, is expected to unite 1.3 billion people and create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc.
One of the targets policy-makers hope to achieve from the agreement is creating more jobs in more diverse industries, from services to manufacturing. Also, a functioning trade zone in the continent could make Africa more attractive for European investors.
However, the implementation of the deal is likely to face several obstacles. They include border restrictions, poor roads and railway lines within the continent, corruption and poverty, especially in war-torn areas.
The trade agreement is one positive step that should be followed by several steps in order to see its outcome on the ground, said a diplomat who preferred to remain anonymous.
“Unless matters like border restrictions, scheduled tariff concessions, conflicts and security issues are resolved, the free trade agreement will not be able to meet its objectives,” he said.
A balance between the national interest of every country and intra-African trade is vital for the implementation of the deal, he explained.
However, the diplomat added, the deal was given a major boost as Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, ratified it this week after a long delay.
As the AfCFTA comes into effect, signatories agreed to drop 90 per cent of their tariffs for imports from other African states. This is expected to boost intra-African trade by more than 50 per cent. Dropping the remaining tariffs is expected after a decade in order to protect key industries. By that time, intra-African trade is expected to double.
At present, only 17 per cent of the exports of African countries go to other African countries in comparison to intra-regional trade levels of 59 per cent with Asia and 69 per cent with Europe.
The free trade zone should be operational starting July 2020.
The AfCFTA is the world’s largest trade bloc since the creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1994.
Fifty-four out of 55 AU member states agreed to the deal in March 2018, with only Eritrea holding out. Only 19 countries ratified the deal then. In early April this year, Gambia ratified the agreement. By the end of the month, Sierra Leone and the Saharawi Republic — the 21st and 22nd countries required to ratify the agreement to allow it to come into force — endorsed it. The agreement came into force on 30 May.
Nigeria, one of the strongest economies in the continent, and Benin were the last two states to sign the free trade agreement before the opening of the Niamey summit this week.
The free trade agreement comes in line with the AU Agenda 2063 that is meant to bring Africa together in a multitude of ways.
AGENDA 2063: “The Africa We Want”, launched in 2013, is Africa’s plan for development and economic growth in 50 years. It has 14 initiatives in the areas of infrastructure, education, health, science, technology, culture and peacekeeping.
The free trade agreement, Hegazi said, will further enhance intra-African relations on bilateral as well as multilateral levels, a factor that will facilitate the implementation of the initiatives of Agenda 2063.
In the meantime, Agenda 2063 will in its turn contribute to the full implementation of the free trade zone. That is, each will work in the interest of the other and both will be in the interest of the continent, Hegazi explained.
And while the continent will face obstacles to implement the free trade deal as a result of internal factors — including corruption and conflicts and external factors, namely the resistance of states like India and China that have been involved in trade with Africa for decades — the agreement of more than half the African states to establish a free trade zone indicates that they are willing to overcome these obstacles, the diplomat said.
“Dreams like railway networks that would link the national rail services of the countries concerned, a road from Cairo to Cape Town or free movement of citizens in the continent are now more achievable than before,” he said.