By Sadik Warfa
Wednesday August 30, 2023
The recent decision by Somalia to join the East African Community (EAC) has emerged as a key development in the region. It can be noted that the implications of this significant integration process resonate deeply within the country and its population, and that the relation between Somalia and other EAC aligned states is vital as Somalia enters into a new era of regional collaboration and strives to forge a brighter future for Somali People.
The approval of Somalia's application to join the East African Community (EAC) during the 21st Extra-Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State in Bujumbura, Burundi, signifies Somalia's readiness to become part of the community under President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's leadership. This decision highlights the President's commitment to a promising future for Somalia, offering numerous social, economic, and political benefits.
Socially, Joining the EAC enhances Somalia's ability to work alongside neighbouring nations on security and counter-terrorism, fostering greater regional safety and stability. This membership also brings about social progress, including Job creation, improved healthcare, poverty alleviation, and education, as the member states share expertise and resources.
Politically the country's Governance will strengthen due to exposure to the EAC mechanism, which will foster transparency and anti-corruption measures. Additionally, regional diplomacy opportunities will bolster political stability and conflict resolution. Economically, Somalia gains access to a larger consumer base, facilitating cross-border trade and increased economic growth. Moreover, Somalia stands to benefit from the EAC's focus on infrastructure development, enhancing connectivity, trade efficiency, and overall competitiveness.
It is however, essential to consider potential challenges that Somalia may face in the process of joining the EAC, such as aligning its legal framework with EAC regulations, addressing historical tensions with neighbouring countries which might raise security concerns for other EAC members, poor infrastructure, including road networks and ports, which could constrain its ability to efficiently trade and network with other EAC member states.
Similarly, the EAC is bound to gain from the inclusion of Somalia, for instance this addition could lead to enhanced regional security efforts since Somalia can contribute to counter-terrorism efforts, intelligence sharing, and joint military operations to combat extremist groups, such as Al-Shabaab, which have been a threat to the entire region.
The country’s geographic location will also offer strategic access to the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, potentially becoming a gateway to markets in the Middle East and beyond, and it will foster cultural exchange and support among member states, fostering regional harmony and unity.
Somalia's bid to join the EAC began in 2012, raising concerns about the differing pace of South Sudan's admission despite shared challenges. These included security, governance, capacity, and economic diversification issues during integration. Fortunately, during the 21st Extra-Ordinary Summit of EAC Heads of State in Bujumbura, Burundi, the adoption of the Verification Report brought relief as Somalia's application was adopted.
Despite these challenges, focusing on the benefits for both Somalia and the EAC is crucial. This engagement holds the potential for economic, social, and political gains. By actively participating in the community's processes, addressing internal issues, and leveraging regional support, stability, economic growth, and social progress can be achieved. Regional cooperation can be a vital step towards building lasting peace and prosperity in conflict-affected nations.
Ultimately the success of Somalia's EAC integration relies on collective commitment from member states and the Somali government's active engagement. This integration offers a chance for a brighter future for Somali people, hinging on joint problem-solving and developmental support by all EAC member states.
The writer, Hon Sadik Warfa, is a former Minister of Labour of the Federal Republic of Somalia and Represented Mudug Constituency Federal Parliament 2016-2022.