The East African Community has said it is ready to welcome Somalia as a new member to the regional bloc.
EAC secretary general Peter Mathuki said the community can leverage on Somalia’s coastline to boost it’s trade.
Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa stretching up to 3,200 kilometres.
Mathuki said the intra-EAC trade has continued to rise due to political goodwill among the member states, hitting Sh1.2 trillion (US$10 billion) from US$7.1 billion in 2019.
“The joining of Somalia into the community will make our community bigger in terms of tourism. We can work with them to make EAC a tourism hub in the continent,” he said.
The official said they are sending a verification mission to Somalia to assess the country’s readiness to join the community by the end of January.
“If we keep them out then we do not even have a mandate to be involved in what they are doing,” he said.
Mathuki said the security challenges facing the country can be managed within the EAC framework.
Late last year, Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud urged the community to fast-track the process of admitting his country to the bloc.
He termed the process a delayed dream for the people and his government.
“Somalia belongs to the East African Community. There is no country among the EAC partner states that is not linked by business with Somalia and existing historical linkages include language and culture,” he said during a meeting in Mogadishu.
Mohamud said his country is working tirelessly to remove all the security challenges with the support of some of the EAC member states.
“We are counting on you the secretary general to send the verification team to Mogadishu, to start the process,” he said.
Somalia made its application to join the EAC in 2012.
Since its application, the matter has been pending due to various reasons.
The secretariat wrote to the Federal Republic of Somalia on November 12, 2018 proposing a working visit on November 20, the same year.
The purpose of the working visit was for the secretariat to meet the relevant authorities from Somalia and agree on the way forward towards holding of a verification exercise.
Somalia on its part communicated back on November 17 informing the secretariat that the timing for the working visit was not conducive then and that an alternative date was to be agreed upon by the parties.
The 22nd Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State observed that the verification exercise for the admission of Somalia into the community had not been undertaken.
It directed the council to expeditiously fast-track the verification exercise in accordance with the EAC procedures for admission of new members and report to the 23rd Ordinary Meeting of the Summit.