This will pave way for increased trade and security cooperation
In a bid to foster economic collaboration and improve security along their shared borders, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda have mutually agreed to eliminate entry visa requirements. This decision emerged from the eighth Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) meeting held in Kinshasa on October 14, marking a major step toward enhancing trade and regional cooperation.
Trade Facilitation: The removal of entry visa fees on a reciprocal basis will promote free movement of people between the two nations. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda had previously urged officials to cease charging Congolese citizens $2.68 (about sh10,000) for crossing into Uganda, emphasizing the need for unhindered border crossings within East Africa. By implementing the JPC’s recommendation, this development aims to stimulate trade, especially for residents living near the borders.
Bilateral Cooperation: To ensure the effective implementation of the JPC’s suggestions, both countries agreed to establish a permanent joint follow-up committee within three months. This committee will be responsible for generating quarterly progress reports, a crucial step in strengthening bilateral ties and addressing the common challenges faced by their populations.
Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery: John Mulimba, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs for Regional Cooperation, commended the DRC for its support in the area of peace and security, particularly during Operation Shujaa. He highlighted the importance of rebuilding their economies post-COVID-19 and natural disasters, underscoring the need for mutually beneficial economic ties and investment flows to promote regional trade and development.
Supporting Regional Integration: Mulimba stressed the significance of supporting regional integration processes, as this promotes economic interdependence, shared advantages, and communication among African nations. Intra-regional trade is expected to boost knowledge exchange, expertise sharing, and technology transfer, leading to innovation, increased productivity, and enhanced competitiveness.
Cultural and Historical Ties: Uganda and the DRC share deep-rooted cultural, historical, and linguistic ties based on the principles of Ubuntu. These ties serve as a strong foundation for their collaboration, emphasizing a shared sense of identity and unity.
Leadership and Security Commitment: Mulimba conveyed President Museveni’s appreciation to President Felix Tshisekedi for his leadership roles in the African Union and the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. Nyamwisi, on the other hand, condemned acts of terrorism in the DRC and expressed a commitment to strengthening trade, cultural exchanges, and security ties between the two nations.
Comprehensive Cooperation: The JPC meeting addressed a wide range of issues, including military and security cooperation, border demarcation, neutralization of armed groups, small arms control, refugee repatriation, public administration, and decentralized cooperation. They also discussed cooperation in trade, taxation, customs, transport, telecommunications, industry, agriculture, fisheries, pollution control, infrastructure development, hydrocarbon exploitation, and health matters.
This landmark decision to eliminate entry visas not only eases travel for citizens but also fosters increased trade and economic cooperation. The commitment to addressing common challenges and advancing the welfare of their populations reflects a significant step in strengthening the ties between Uganda and the DRC. With the establishment of a permanent joint follow-up committee, both nations are poised to enhance their collaborative efforts and promote a brighter future for the region.