With Africa’s newest nation, South Sudan, expressing a keen interest to join the East African Community (EAC), who is likely to benefit the most and what does the new republic stand to gain by joining the regional body? During a recent visit to Kampala, the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir reiterated his country’s commitment to join the EAC “to reap the benefits of regional integration”.
Firstly, the landlocked South Sudan needs a gateway to the world after separating from northern Sudan. Secondly, a significant percentage of South Sudan’s trade is with East Africa (80 per cent), while it clears a big chunk of its goods through the port of Mombasa, Kenya. According to Anthony Lino Makana, South Sudan’s roads and transport minister, the country has started talks with several oil firms to build a 200-km link to the existing pipeline running from Mombasa to Eldoret in Kenya. Makana said such a pipeline would help South Sudan export its oil to Kenya, Uganda, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
If and when it joins the EAC, South Sudan would be bringing with it oil wealth, minerals and a huge agricultural potential. Joining the EAC is almost inevitable for South Sudan, given its historical and cultural links with Kenya and Uganda. David Nalo, the permanent secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of East African Community, said the EAC is bound by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005, an international agreement under which South Sudan seceded from the north. With South Sudan’s independence on 9 July, the country now has to apply for EAC membership as a new state.
According to Nalo, upon application, South Sudan will be subjected to the conditions of accession. Article 3 (3) of the EAC Treaty sets out conditions for membership; these include: acceptance of the Community as set out in the Treaty; adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice; contribution towards the strengthening of integration within the East African region; geographical proximity to and inter -dependence between it and the partner states; establishment and maintenance of a market driven economy; and social and economic policies being compatible with those of the Community.
Moreover, South Sudan will have to surmount many challenges for it to become a full EAC member. The country’s attempt to join the EAC comes at a time when the five EAC member countries have made major steps, including establishing a Customs Union and a Common Market. South Sudan must also embrace democratic and best common practices that have been embedded within the other EAC five member states.
According to Pete Ondeng, a business strategist and author, South Sudan currently cannot compete with “mature” economies that it would be joining in the EAC. Once South Sudan joins the EAC, it would be difficult to stop the flow of goods from member countries, an event that might delay the take-off of the new country’s manufacturing sector. Ondeng told the Independent East African News Agency (EANA) that once strategic and important industries are identified, the South Sudanese government must both encourage and protect their domestic growth, given that free trade may not accelerate it to become a mature economy. Ondeng added that South Sudan needs to recognize that by throwing its borders open for goods and services from other EAC members, the county will have very little chances of getting on its feet quickly.