Last week at the East African Community Summit meeting in Arusha, the official accession of Somalia to the East Africa Community (EAC) was announced. We knew that Somalia was being considered since 2011 and Member States could not come to an agreement largely because of the security concern that Somalia faces with its ongoing civil conflict and harbouring of the group Al Shabab. After a thorough and collaborative process, Somalia has successfully met the necessary requirements for membership in the East Africa Community. Somalia is therefore the 8th member of the EAC and this marks a significant step forward, not only for Somalia but for the entire region. The accession of Somalia further strengthens the EAC’s commitment to regional integration, sustainable development, and increased cooperation among member countries.

Does it the accession make sense?

For Somalia, by joining the EAC, it will gain access to a wide range of benefits that come with regional integration. The reasons why Somalia’s accession to the EAC matters are as follows:

  1. With Somalia’s inclusion, the EAC enlarges its market to close to 300 million people, creating extensive trade opportunities among member states. Enhanced trade ties will lead to increased economic growth and prosperity for all parties involved and the region’s economic potential expands even further. Somalia boasts a wealth of natural resources, including fertile lands, fisheries, and untapped oil and gas reserves. Integration into the EAC will provide Somalia with access to a larger market, boosting trade and investment opportunities. This move has the potential to propel economic growth and development within the country.<br><br>
  2. The EAC has actively pursued infrastructure development projects to improve connectivity within the region. Somalia’s accession will encourage further investments in infrastructure, stimulating trade, tourism, and socio-economic development. The EAC provides a platform for member states to collaborate on various issues, including trade, security, infrastructure, and resource management. Somalia’s involvement brings another active participant to the table, enhancing the collective efforts of the EAC.
  3. The EAC is actively involved in infrastructure development projects, such as road networks, railways, ports, and energy systems. Becoming a member of the EAC means that Somalia will have access to these initiatives, leading to improved connectivity, trade facilitation, and economic integration. Investment in infrastructure will help remove barriers and enhance Somalia’s ability to participate in regional trade and economic activities.
  4. Somalia’s accession strengthens regional cooperation and integration within the East African Community. By joining the EAC, Somalia demonstrates its commitment to regional stability, unity, and development. Somalia has faced numerous challenges, including political instability and conflict. Becoming a member of the EAC signifies Somalia’s commitment to fostering peace and stability within its borders and across the region. The EAC has a track record of promoting peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution among its member states. Somalia’s entry into the EAC allows for shared experiences, knowledge exchange, and support in matters of governance and security.
  5. Somalia’s inclusion in the EAC promotes cultural exchange and strengthens people-to-people relations within the region. This integration leads to a deeper understanding, appreciation, and celebration of diverse cultures, languages, and traditions. It encourages individuals to connect, share experiences, and collaborate on joint projects, fostering a spirit of unity and harmony.
  6. The EAC promotes the exchange of skills, expertise, and knowledge among member countries. This collaboration allows for capacity building initiatives, which will benefit Somalia and foster the sharing of best practices across various sectors.
  7. Cultural Exchange and People-to-People Relations: As Somalia becomes a member of the EAC, cultural exchanges and people-to-people relations will flourish. This integration will promote mutual understanding, tolerance, and unity among East African communities.

Let’s look at Somalia’s economic profile and its unique characteristics and strengths that it brings to the East African bloc. Despite its past challenges, Somalia possesses several key assets that hold the potential for economic growth and contribute to the overall strength of the EAC namely:

  1. Somalia’s geographical location provides a strategic gateway to the East African region, with access to important maritime trade routes. This position makes Somalia an important hub for regional trade, allowing for increased connectivity and integration within the EAC.
  2. Somalia is rich in natural resources, including fertile land, fisheries, livestock, minerals, and potential oil and gas reserves. These resources present significant opportunities for agricultural production, fisheries development, and extractive industries, contributing to the overall economic potential of the region.
  3. Somalia has a long-standing tradition of livestock rearing and agriculture. It is known for its high-quality meat, dairy products, and agricultural produce. By joining the EAC, Somalia can tap into the regional market, promoting exports and attracting investments in these sectors, thereby contributing to the region’s food security and economic growth.
  4. Somalia benefits from a significant flow of remittances from its large and very successful diaspora community. These remittances play a vital role in supporting the country’s economy and livelihoods. With Somalia’s inclusion in the EAC, there is an opportunity to leverage the diaspora network to drive investment, trade, and knowledge transfer within the region. Furthermore, Somali are no strangers to the EAC with a huge number investing in Kenya and Tanzania and are having large and successful enterprises in the regional bloc already.
  5. Somalia possesses a resilient and entrepreneurial population with valuable expertise in various sectors. The inclusion of Somalia in the EAC allows for the sharing of skills, knowledge, and experiences, promoting human capital development within the region. Somali entrepreneurs can contribute to the growth of the regional private sector, fostering innovation, and creating employment opportunities.
  6. Somalia’s inclusion in the EAC paves the way for infrastructure development projects. With support from regional partners, investments in roads, railway systems, ports, and energy infrastructure can enhance connectivity within the country and across East Africa. Improved infrastructure will facilitate cross-border trade and economic integration.
  7. Somalia’s long coastline, pristine beaches, and diverse landscapes hold significant potential for tourism development. With the establishment of peace and stability, the tourism industry can flourish, attracting regional and international visitors. This will contribute to job creation, foreign exchange earnings, and cultural exchange within the EAC.

So, is Somalia’s accession to the EAC an advantage or a disadvantage to the Regional Bloc? Unfortunately, Somalia is mostly known for its ongoing civil war that has ravaged the country for many years and the existence of Al-Shabab, a terrorist group. While the conflict cannot be ignored and that as a result, Somalia is subject to a number of sanctions by the UN, USA, EU and the UK, which makes one wonder how this will affect treaties that are entered into with the East African Community bloc as a whole. However, given that Somalia will have to comply to the EAC Treaty requirements of upholding human rights standards, transparency, governance, and rule of law standards, one may hope to see an improvement in Somalia in those areas of public administration and governance, particularly if government and judiciary reforms are taken seriously.

However, what remains unseen by the public at large is the enormous innovation that exists in Somalia because of the entrepreneurial spirit that many Somali people have. One example of a Somali businessman that is renowned if founder of WorldRemit  (the largest global digital cross border remittance business), Ismail Ibrahim Ahmed. Somalia also has a very successful diaspora that exist worldwide and that invest a lot of money back into the country, the abundant natural resources and the willingness to find peace and stability as path for prosperity.

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