DRCongo seeks membership of East African trade bloc

Nairobi (AFP) –


Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi said Thursday that his country was seeking to join the East African Community, a regional political and economic bloc.

The DRC shares borders with four of the six members of the bloc, and Tshisekedi said on a visit to Tanzania -- home to its headquarters -- that he hoped membership would ease trade.

"The Democratic Republic of Congo has recently requested membership of the East African Community. This will allow us to drop customs barriers and increase trade between our countries," Tshisekedi said at a dinner with his counterpart John Magufuli.

"We are facing the challenge of regional integration that we must absolutely realise," he said, highlighting the need for cross-border transport and energy infrastructure.

He gave his support to a planned railway linking Tanzania's port at Dar es Salaam to the eastern DRC via Rwanda -- one of several ambitious rail projects in the region.

"Our countries must commit to development based on democracy and freedom so as to promote Africans so they can compete with other parts of the world," Tshisekedi said as he kicked off a two-day visit in Tanzania.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the current chair of the organisation, has asked the EAC to put the discussion of DRC's membership on the agenda of the next heads of state meeting in November, the East African newspaper reported Thursday.

The DRC is already a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc.

Members of the EAC include Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.