The Republic of South Sudan (RSS) was admitted as a full member of the East African Community on October 1st, 2016. Membership in the Regional Bloc was attained following several months of difficult, technical-level, negotiations. These negotiations assessed the development of South Sudan Government’s policies and programmes in a range of areas including, among other, in economic, financial, trade, environment, education and health spheres.
South Sudan’s Membership in the Regional Bloc is a somewhat unique development. Never before, in the world’s economic history, has a country with such short history of independence, just starting its developmental journey joined a Regional Integration Bloc that is as advanced. Membership in the EAC is akin to Membership in the European Union (EU) as it entails the establishment of the Customs Union, the Common Market and the Monetary Union. Much like the EU, the EAC strides to establish an “ever closer Union”. As such, it may be the largest single reform process that the Government of South Sudan has, so far, committed to undertake. EAC areas of cooperation are wide-ranging and include common laws, institutions and harmonization of economic, education or health policies. By signing the Treaty of Accession to the EAC South Sudan Government made a legally binding commitment to implement business-friendly policies, improve governance and external accountability as well as to undertake an extensive Regional Integration agenda.
As a result, the process opens a somewhat unique opportunity for promotion of democratic, governance and economic reforms through regional integration. South Sudan is now required to accept the fundamental principles of the Community which include peaceful co-existence and good neighbourliness, peaceful settlement of disputes, good governance, democracy, rule of law and protection of human and peoples’ rights. By joining the EAC the Government of South Sudan had made a legally-binding commitment for reforms. The EAC ‘aquis communitaire’ – a body of more than fifty (50) EAC Protocols and Regulations – now takes precedent over similar domestic laws. EAC laws need to uniformly applied and implemented in all Partner States including South Sudan. Crucially, the EAC Institutions such as the East African Court of Justice now have legal jurisdiction in South Sudan.
South Sudan’s Membership in the EAC is likely to provide concrete benefits
While de jure the South Sudan is now an integral part of the EAC, de facto capacity and knowledge of EAC needs to be improved for South Sudan to be an effective and efficient member of the Community. South Sudan is now in the process of implementing dozens of projects in customs, health, civil aviation, health, education to name a few. These reforms may have a realistic and substantial effect on economic growth and poverty alleviation by removing key barriers to trade and to do business and service delivery in South Sudan.