ARUSHA– The Republic of Somalia is in the line-up for becoming the 7th member of the East African Community (EAC).

The prospect will be on the agenda for discussions as the regional bloc’s Heads of State assemble in Kampala, Uganda, from Wednesday Feb 21.

The Ugandan Minister of State for EAC Affairs, Julius Wandera Maganda, who currently chairs the Council of Ministers, revealed in a statement here that the six heads of state from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and South-Sudan will review progress of the verification exercise for the admission of the Republic of Somalia into the EAC.

The inclusion of Mogadishu will make the East African Community to now own ‘The Horn of Africa,’ and boast the longest coastline of the Indian Ocean on the continent. The joint population of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, South-Sudan and (if admitted) Somalia, will be close to 190 million in total, which is essentially the same number of people as Nigeria.

Apart from discussing the horn of Africa factor, other agenda items in the EAC Heads of State retreat’s table include the modalities for promotion of motor vehicle assembly in the community, although already Kenya is ahead on this, by hosting assembly lines for Nissan, Volkswagen and China’s Foton.

Included, too, will be a review of the textile and leather sector, in which Tanzania tops the bill by having a large number of textile factories if the defunct ones were to be revived, and working on the Report of the Chair of the EAC Summit President Yoweri Museveni, on the EU-EAC Economic Partnership agreement President John Magufuli and his five counterparts will also address the issue of ‘One network area’ framework in the region.

The retreat will also incorporate separate development partners’ roundtable and exhibitions from Wednesday Feb 21 to Thursday Feb 22.

Speaking earlier in Arusha, the EAC Secretary General, Ambassador Liberat Mfumukeko, said the event was also held in recognition of infrastructure as a prime mover of socio-economic development in the region, focusing on the progress of implementation of previously prioritised projects.

The theme for the retreat is ‘Deepening and Widening Regional Integration through Infrastructure and Health Sector Development in the EAC Partner States.’ A number of projects will be identified, most of which are under implementation in the energy sector, transport, maritime and ports development.

With regard to the health sector, the first Heads of State Retreat will seek to build consensus on regional health sector investment priorities for the attainment of Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.