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Somalia joins regional East Africa trade bloc

Conflict-weary Somalia was admitted Friday into the East African Community (EAC) as the eighth member of the bloc as it seeks to expand free trade across the region.

“We have decided to admit the Federal Republic of Somalia under the treaty of accession,” outgoing EAC chair, Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, said at a summit of the group in Tanzania.

Somalia — whose President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was at the summit — joins Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The EAC, headquartered in the Tanzanian town of Arusha where the summit was taking place, was founded in 2000 and works to encourage trade by removing customs duties between member states.

It established a common market in 2010.

The admission of the fragile Horn of Africa nation with a population of 17 million will boost the EAC market to more than 300 million people.

Somalia also has the longest coastline of a mainland African country and will add more than 3,000 kilometres (1,800 miles) of shoreline to the bloc, stretching it from the Atlantic through the Indian Ocean up to the Gulf of Aden.

But Somalia is struggling to stem a deadly insurgency against the Islamist Al-Shabaab group, portending more security challenges for the bloc.

After making significant progress, Somalia’s offensive against the Al-Qaeda-linked group has stalled for months and raised concerns about the government’s capacity to crush the 16-year insurrection.

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