Landlocked and Oil-Rich South Sudan Joins Free-Trade Zone
As South Sudan was officially admitted to the East African Community (EAC) as its sixth member in Arusha (Tanzania), on Wednesday, March 2, the beleaguered nation joined a free-trade zone that will allow it to benefit from more open labour movement, less restrictions on capital flows and other increased economic integration. The other member states are Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda. After integration with S. Sudan — the youngest nation on Earth — the region will have a population of an estimated 163 million.
John Oxenham, of Pr1merio Africa advisors, says: “South Sudan’s former institutional weaknesses were (apparently, despite the ongoing civil strife in the country) sufficiently remedied that the EAC governing body saw fit to grant the application for admission that had been pending since 2011. Basic governance principles must be met for EAC membership, and we are not even talking competition-law here…”
As the EAC charter provides, all members must demonstrate and strive to achieve “good governance including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities, gender equality, as well as the recognition, promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.” (EAC Treaty, Chapter 2 Article 6 (d)).
Setting aside civil-rights concerns or worries about political instability, the integration of an oil-rich nation may ultimately benefit its neighbouring fellow EAC members, such as Kenya and Uganda. It remains to be seen whether integrating a less-than-stable country into the EAC zone will harm the competition legislation the region enacted in 2006. As AAT author Elizabeth Sisenda pointed out recently, the organisation “has been setting up the mechanisms for its enforcement to-date through capacity building and mobilizing resources. In 2010, the EAC subsequently enacted competition regulations to assist in implementing the Act. One of the main challenges that has been encountered in the EAC with regards to the implementation of competition law and policy has been the unique economic and market structure of the member states. The majority of the EAC member states are economies that are transitioning from state-regulation to liberalization.”
We note that S. Sudan’s northern neighbour, the Republic of [the] Sudan, is currently a COMESA member state and thereby subject to the COMESA competition-law regulations and related merger-notification regime. South Sudan has, since at least the 2012 talks in Uganda, likewise been in negotiations with the COMESA governing bodies to discuss accession to that free-trade zone.