Expansion of the East African Community
Last Tuesday, at the 19th Extraordinary Summit of the East African Community (EAC), the Democratic Republic of the Congo was officially confirmed as the seventh member. The EAC also includes Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose country currently holds the presidency of this regional bloc, spoke of a “historic day in the existence of the EAC”. The admission of the second largest country on the African continent and an expansion of the market of the East African Community to almost 300 million people could, according to expert estimates, increase the export volume by almost 240 million US dollars annually. In particular, the Member States Rwanda and Uganda are set to benefit from this. With this step, the EAC achieves a geographical expansion from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic and hopes to strengthen its international negotiating power. The DRC’s admission promises not only interstate trade and economic advantages such as simplified movement of people and goods, but also the improvement of diplomatic relations between the East African countries. Currently, there are disagreements between the existing members regarding outstanding contributions from South Sudan and Burundi, as well as the unequal distribution of EAC institutions within the member states, which might at first be exacerbated by the DR Congo’s accession. The country’s admission to the association of states also takes place against the backdrop of decades of tense relations between the DRC and neighbouring Rwanda, which accuse each other of supporting rebel groups (press review cw 51/2021). The unstable security situation in parts of the DRC, along with insufficient industrialisation and poor infrastructure, is by many regarded as an obstacle to full and immediate integration into the East African market. It is likely to take several months or even up to a year for the DRC’s integration to be completed. The next step to be taken is for the Congolese parliament to ratify the EAC laws and regulations.
New opposition party wins Zimbabwe by-elections
Zimbabwe held by-elections for parliament and local government last Saturday, originally scheduled for 2020 and postponed due to the Covid 19 pandemic. The opposition party Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), newly founded three months ago and led by opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, won a majority of 19 out of a total of 28 National Assembly seats up for by-election. The remaining nine seats went to the ruling party Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which has ruled the country since independence in 1980 and still holds an absolute majority in parliament with a total of 154 of 210 parliamentary seats. At the local level, the CCC also scored a clear electoral victory, winning 75 of 122 seats. The big loser on election day was the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which had long been Zimbabwe’s strongest opposition party, but which had recently been internally divided and lost significant support with Chamisa’s resignation and the formation of the CCC. The elections were overshadowed in the run-up by violent riots against opposition parties as well as accusations by the opposition and independent election observers accusing the government of vote-buying and election interference. The by-election is seen as a landmark for the upcoming 2023 presidential election, with the CCC’s electoral success interpreted by many media outlets as a sign of a head-to-head for the presidency that could force Mnangagwa, who took over from Robert Mugabe in 2017 after 37 years in office, into a run-off. Leading up to the presidential election, opposition and non-governmental organisations are calling for comprehensive electoral reforms related to the voters’ register, the strengthening of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the prevention of violence and intimidation at polling stations, and a fair distribution of constituencies.
In other news
The 10th edition of the World Happiness Report ranks Mauritius as the happiest country in Africa. Out of a total of 146 countries listed worldwide, the East African island nation ranks 52nd, with Libya and Côte d’Ivoire following at places 86 and 88. Coming in last on the African continent are Botswana, Rwanda and Zimbabwe at places 142, 143 and 144 respectively. Overall, the African continent scores the lowest compared to the rest of the world, with a regional score of 4.5 out of 10. The report, published annually by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network on March 20th – the International Day of Happiness – takes into account indicators such as GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity and corruption, among others.
The German Africa Foundation congratulates Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia on qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.