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"Somalia's Potential Membership in the East African Community: A Boost for Regional Integration and Cooperation"

by Ismail D. Osman
Thursday March 2, 2023

East Africa Community conference in Mogadishu, Somalia - (Photo: SONNA)

Somalia has expressed interest in joining the East African Community (EAC), which consists of six countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan. Several conditions must be completed before Somalia may join the EAC.

First and foremost, Somalia must meet the EAC Treaty's entrance conditions. This includes demonstrating the ability to uphold the ideals of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights respect. Somalia must also demonstrate a functional market economy and commitment to regional integration.

East African Community (EAC) officially launches a verification mission to assess Somalia's readiness to join the Community, it would likely involve a team of experts conducting a comprehensive review of Somalia's political, economic, and social systems.

The EAC verification team who visited Somalia last month assessed Somalia's progress in meeting the criteria for EAC membership. The team would also evaluate Somalia's economic performance, trade policies, and its potential contribution to the EAC's integration efforts.

Based on the findings of the verification mission, the EAC would decide on whether Somalia meets the criteria for membership and recommend next steps, which could include further negotiations and reforms to meet the requirements for joining the Community.

Second, Somalia must negotiate its membership terms with the EAC member states. This includes committing to abide by the EAC's legal and institutional frameworks, as well as negotiating tariff rates and other trade regulations.  Finally, Somalia must address its worries about internal security and stability. For decades, the country has been plagued by conflict and insecurity, and any upheaval might jeopardize the EAC's overall stability.

To enable Somalia to join the EAC, the international community must assist Somalia in addressing its concerns about internal security and stability, promoting good governance and the rule of law, and fostering economic growth and development. The EAC member states can also offer Somalia with technical assistance to help it achieve the admission criteria and negotiate its conditions of membership.

True, Somalia's potential EAC membership could open up opportunities for foreign investment in a variety of sectors, including fishing, agriculture, mining, livestock, food processing, construction, finance, airline transport and hubs, health tourism, ITs & Telecom, digital economy, and marine transport. This might potentially offer job opportunities for EAC citizens, both skilled and non-skilled labors.

It is important to note, however, that the extent to which these opportunities materialize will be determined by several factors, including the level of investment attracted, the regulatory environment in Somalia and the wider EAC, and the capacity of Somali businesses to capitalize on these opportunities.

The latter is a sure bet given the large Somalia diaspora and their access to Western Capital markets, Western power centers and Western consumer markets. They believe they can create hundreds of thousands of jobs if security is improved something the current president swears bye.

It is also critical to guarantee that any investment is long-term and fosters inclusive economic growth, so that the benefits of economic development are widely distributed and contribute to poverty reduction and improved living conditions for all EAC residents, including those in Somalia. This may necessitate tailored policies and initiatives to assist small and medium-sized businesses, promote environmental sustainability, and secure workers' access to fair salaries and decent working conditions.

The business community can help Somalia's desire to join the EAC and President Hassan Sheikh's goal of eradicating Al Shabaab. The business community can assist create jobs and enhance regional stability and security by investing more in Somalia and supporting economic growth and development.

Furthermore, the business community can help Somalia improve its governance and minimize corruption, which are critical for creating an enabling climate for business and economic development. Advocating for reforms to streamline company regulations and decrease bureaucracy, promoting the creation of transparent procurement processes, and promoting corporate social responsibility projects that benefit local communities are examples of such activities.

One area that business community helped the government is the use of mobile money transfers (MMT) used to collect taxes and other government revenues that results government  financial accountability and transparence. Another area is the use of USD currency for local transactions that eliminates currency depreciation anxiety and inflation.

However, it is critical to acknowledge that Somalia's difficulties are complicated and varied, and that there are no simple solutions. To eradicate Al Shabaab, for example, a mix of military action, targeted social programs, and local community participation will be required, among other things. On top of that the government must empower tribal leaders to educate their followers the dangers of the Al Shabab and its obstacle to peaceful, prosperous, and inclusive society. The business community can play an essential role in assisting these efforts, but it will also necessitate coordination and cooperation among a variety of sectors and players, both within Somalia and globally.

Finally, the business community is encouraging the president to push the EAC agenda to the forefront of his government and allocate resources to accomplish this important mission.

Ismail D. Osman: Former Deputy Director of Somalia National Intelligence & Security Agency (NISA) – Writes in Somalia, Horn of Africa Security and Geopolitical focusing on governance and security. You can reach him [email protected] @osmando


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