Security through market integration? The political economy of the DRC’s accession to the EAC
Bruce Byiers, Poorva Karkare, Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, Bossissi Nkuba and Christelle Balegamire Karuta zoom in on the DRC’s admission to the EAC. They look at the actors and factors that work for and against the DRC’s economic integration into the EAC.
While the DRC’s admission into the EAC is seen as a way to resolve internal economic and security issues, those same issues and their link with regional insecurity could undermine any short- to medium-term progress in terms of full and meaningful economic integration.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s admission into the East African Community (EAC) promises a range of benefits for the country and the wider region, but multiple challenges will need to be overcome first. This paper examines the actors and factors in the DRC and EAC countries that work for and against the effective integration of the DRC economy into the EAC.
Our findings suggest that, as well as cementing historical, cultural, economic and security ties with its eastern neighbours, EAC membership is implicitly a means for the DRC to address internal economic and security challenges, key in light of the December 2023 presidential elections. EAC members primarily discuss the DRC’s inclusion as a business opportunity for exporting to, and investing in, a large, ‘untapped market’. Kenyan banking and financial services stand to benefit, with Rwanda and Uganda likely to gain most in terms of goods exports. Cross-border traders welcome visa-free travel and trade liberalisation beyond existing arrangements. However, many DRC firms fear a flood of goods and services from EAC countries that will outcompete them.
The fragmented nature of DRC markets, the complex business environment and insecurity in the country’s east will make it difficult for firms, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, to take advantage of the expanded market. While the DRC’s admission into the EAC is seen as a way to resolve internal economic and security issues, those same issues and their link with regional insecurity could undermine any short- to medium-term progress in terms of full and meaningful economic integration.