This month, the East African Community (EAC) will send a delegation to South Sudan to assess the state of the country and see its state of readiness to join the community of already 5 countries. It is nearly a year since South Sudan applied to join the EAC.
In order to join the EAC, South Sudan would have to fulfill the conditions of; acceptance of the Community as set out in the EAC Treaty; adherence to universally acceptable principles of good governance, democracy, the rule of law, observance of human rights and social justice; potential contribution to the strengthening of integration within the East African region; geographical proximity to and inter -dependence between it and the Partner States; establishment and maintenance of a market driven economy; and social and economic policies being compatible with those of the Community. These are the issues, as set up in article 3 (3) of the EAC treaty, that the EAC is going to look at in depth.
It is already evident, however, that South Sudan already meets 4 of the six criteria above, e.g geographical proximity, market driven economy, compatibilities in social and economic policies and potential contribution to the strengthening of integration.
This is a country of unique capabilities, huge opportunities, The new country, has a land size of about 239,285 sq miles, slightly larger than Kenya. Yet it has a population of only about 8 million. It is in East African Time zone It therefore provides a huge market and Kenya and Uganda have more than quadrupled their exports in goods and services to Southern Sudan in the last 10 years. Uganda exports over $200million, Kenya over $180million.
It has 85% of Sudan's oil output (estimated at about 520,000 barrels per day), this offers the EAC a unique opportunity to have South Sudan as a partner state in the region's Common Market and Monetary Union.
South Sudan has immense potential, agriculture farm land with unique climate could form the bulwark of unlimited commercial agriculture, huge forest reserves for timber and the lumber industry, the Nile river will be available for navigation and the fishing industry and electricity.
Tourism will certainly be a boon to the country. The country is home to the "big five" and countless other flora and fauna not forgetting the prized landscapes and historical artifacts.
A recent report by conservation uncovered one of the largest animal migrations in South Sudan and suggests the scale could be bigger than Tanzania's Serengeti.
However, South Sudan has to meet the EAC halfway. There have been widespread reports of a kind of xenophobia among locals. The South Sudanese will need education, science and technology, investments, exposure and protection from their northern "neighbor" Sudan. That protection and exposure will be given by its "southern" brothers (EAC).
The new nation has a lot to learn from the other neighbors and will also have to pull up their socks in the area of governance and the rule of law.
The bigger bonus of South Sudan being a full member of the EAC is it will also act as a buffer and defense zone against the threat of terrorism from Al shabaab and Kony rebels.