After connecting the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean through the admission of DR Congo, the East African Community (EAC) is now eyeing one of the longest coastlines in Africa.
The drive to admit Somalia into the bloc aims to bring under control the Horn of Africa coast line that is abundantly rich in fisheries.
Somalia’s long Indian Ocean/Red Sea route that links the EA region to the Arabian Peninsula is seen as a vibrant economic zone.
“It will bring immense benefits for the EAC through the exploitation of Somalia’s blue economy resources such as fish,” said the EAC secretary general, Peter Mathuki.
At 3,300 kilometers, Somalia boasts the longest coastline in continental Africa and diverse waters that are home to schools of different fish species.
These include yellowfin tuna, blue marlin, dolphin fish, sardines, and many more amid tremendous potential for successful expansion.
The coastline hosts one of the major shipping routes around Africa although once associated with piracy by boat-borne criminals.
Dr Mathuki, when speaking at a recent retreat in Kenya for the EAC staff, insisted that Somalia’s admission would be for the economic interest of the bloc.
Besides being one of the leading countries in livestock population, geology suggests the presence of valuable mineral deposits in Somalia.
For Dr Mathuki, who successfully struggled to have DR Congo in the EAC, Somalia’s admission into the seven nation bloc could be a matter of time.
A verification team would be dispatched to Mogadishu anytime from now to assess the country’s readiness to join the Community.
“The verification mission will be visiting Somalia from the end of this month (January),” he told staff drawn from the EAC organs at Machakos county.
This, he said, was the directive by the EAC leaders who in July last year endorsed the country’s admission during their last summit in Arusha in July last year.
The EAC boss was there in October last year during which he held discussions with Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Somalia believes its entry into the Community will boost the East African economies especially the blue economy and cross-border trade.
President Mohamud told the EAC team that his country, which shares a long border with Kenya, was already linked to the bloc through different businesses.
However, unlike the case with DR Congo last year, Somalia’s admission may not bring much change in the regional dynamics.
Covering 634,657 square kilometres, Somalia will be the fourth largest country in surface area after DRC, Tanzania and South Sudan.
The Horn of Africa country will trail five EAC states DR Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan in population size.
Its 17million population is slightly higher than those of Rwanda and Burundi which joined the ‘original’ EAC in 2007, paving the way for admission of more states.
The country’s economy is not only one of the lowest in the continent but also not well formalized due to the nature of governance.
Somalia’s GDP (purchasing power parity) is estimated to be $20.6billion while nominal GDP stands at a lowly $5.2 billion.
Generally, Somalia meets some criteria to become a member of the Community, including proximity to the current EAC.
Others are inter-dependence between it and the EAC partner states and its status of a market-driven economy.
Its potential contribution to the strengthening of the EAC is not likely to be much questioned, being a trading neighbour.
However, the other key criteria will have much to do with the country’s current state of insecurity and governance.
The EAC Treaty says a foreign country intending to join the bloc must adhere to universally acceptable principles of good governance.
Tied with this is adherence to democracy, the rule of law and observance of human rights and social justice.
That will largely await the EAC verification mission when they land at Aden Abdulle International Airport in Mogadishu later this month.
However, the EAC boss is confident the violence-torn Horn of Africa country will meet all the criteria and join the bloc.
“Insecurity is the the first issue that we will seek to address during the negotiations,” Dr Mathuki affirmed when speaking to journalists at Machakos.
He banked this on the smooth admission of DR Congo early lastyear to become the seventh member state of the Community.
He said that the expansion of the EAC was for the benefit of the people of the region and the economies of their countries.
EAC verification teams for the proposed new member states often consisted of at least three officials of the partner states with full membership.