The East African Community has set aside $82,000 for the admission of South Sudan into the bloc even though Juba may have to wait until 2016 to join.
The process, to start after the EAC Council of Ministers meeting in August, is projected to take at least four years.
At the 14th Ordinary Summit held in Nairobi last year, EAC Heads of State approved the verification report that was presented by the Council of Ministers, then directed it to start the negotiation process with South Sudan.
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“The Council will either form a new team or retain the last verification team to start engaging South Sudan on the requirements they should meet as per the EAC treaty,” said Kenya Director of Economic Affairs Richard Sindiga.
“Thereafter, the council will be required to brief the Heads of State at their next Summit in November on how far the process has gone,” he said, adding that the process, if fast-tracked, could be complete in the next three years. Rwanda and Burundi formally joined the East African Community in 2007, 10 years after their application. South Sudan applied to join the regional bloc on November 11, 2011.
Issues to be discussed between the verification team and government officials include South Sudan’s compliance with Article 3(3) of the EAC Charter.
According to Article 3(3), membership is contingent upon adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice.
Although the verification report had indicated that South Sudan had legal and institutional frameworks that would enable it to meet membership requirements, these institutions were still in their infancy or not operational, prompting the Heads of State to ask for more verification.
The process will establish whether South Sudan complies with the EAC standards in trade liberalisation and development.
Other issues to be verified are the country’s co-ordination of monetary and financial matters, development of infrastructure and services, development of human resources and development of agriculture and natural resources.
According to the verification report presented to the five presidents at their last summit, South Sudan qualifies to join the community as it has recently established a mechanism for ratification and accession to international treaties — the country has already acceded to the UN and AU Charters, and has been admitted to several regional and international organisations such as Igad, the Nile Basin Initiative and Unesco.
Its geographical proximity has potential to link the East African region to North Africa and Central Africa. It has a market-driven economy, compatibilities in social and economic policies and potential contribution to the strengthening of integration as required by the EAC treaty.
A previous report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa indicated that the resource rich country could contribute oil, its enormous agricultural land and abundant water supply.
South Sudan could benefit from the EAC’s move to harmonise tariffs and open borders for trade among its five members.
“An expanded EAC could revitalise foreign direct investment in all the nations in other critical avenues besides oil such as transport sector, real estate, telecommunications and the industrial sector,” said one analyst.
EAC countries like Kenya and Uganda stand to benefit as their northern neighbour provides them a huge market. Uganda and Kenya’s annual exports to South Sudan are valued at over $200 million and $180 million respectively.