East Africa's top private sector organization has urged the East African Community (EAC) to fast-track the admission of DR Congo into the regional bloc.
Speaking on Wednesday during the launch of a study into opportunities for trade in the DR Congo, the East African Business Council (EABC) Executive Director, Dr. Peter Mathuki, said that the EAC fully exploited its trade potential trailing China and South Africa in exports to the country.
The study, titled “The opportunities for trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo" revealed that China is the top exporter to the country commanding a share of 31.2 percent, followed by South Africa at 15.8 percent and Zambia 13 percent.
During the launch of the study, EABC Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Dr. Peter Mathuki urged EAC partner states to fast-track the admission of DRC into the regional bloc noting that it sources for goods that the EAC can ably supply, from very distant markets.
Dr. Mathuki said that DR Congo sources for goods from distant markets yet the EAC partners states can ably supply it.
But the EABC boss also noted that there are many opportunities that abound for DR Congo in the East African market, the very reason it sought to join the regional bloc.
“DRC will benefit from the larger EAC Common Market and Common External Tariff framework. It will also have access to the seaports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam at competitive rates. Their huge population of 81 million people also provides a vast opportunity for SMEs from the EAC region,” Dr Mathuki said.
DR Congo applied to join the EAC in June 2019, a bloc in which it shares borders with five of the six partner states, namely: South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania.
The study, conducted in collaboration with GIZ Creating Perspectives Project, found that the value of goods imported in DR Congo in 2019, stood at USD 6.6 billion.
However, EAC exports to DR Congo in 2018, stood at USD 855.4 million, representing 11.5 percent of total DR Congo imports.
The value of EAC partner states exports to DR Congo in 2018 was as follows: Rwanda (US$ 337.4 million), Uganda (US$ 204.3 million), Kenya (US$ 149.8 million), Tanzania (US$144.9 million), and Burundi at US$18.9 million.
Further, the study found that non-tariff barriers in DR Congo have hampered business translating to high cost of doing business in the country.
“EABC being the apex body for the private sector in the region will play a critical role in advocating for ease of doing business in DRC which will in turn lower cost of doing business, making DRC competitive, as we prepare to join the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” Dr. Mathuki said.
Dr. Mathuki said that there is a large market in DR Congo that small and medium enterprises can tap into especially in niche areas, including textile clusters and foodstuffs.