Kampala — A decision on South Sudan's application to join the East African Community (EAC) will be made in April next year, according to a communique from the recently concluded EAC summit in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
South Sudan applied to join the bloc shortly after attaining independence from Sudan in July 2011.
The East African Treaty requires that members accept the "community as set out in the treaty; adhere to good governance, democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights". Additionally members are also expected to establish and maintain a market driven economy as preconditions for joining the community.
At the summit in Kampala, EAC secretary-general said a team had been formed to assess South Sudan's application before making a decision next April.
"The summit received the progress report on the negotiations for the admission of the Republic of South Sudan into the East African Community", the communique said.
It added: "The summit observed that the council of ministers had established a high level negotiation team to conduct the negotiations and enable the summit make a decision on the matter at the 12th extra-ordinary summit in April 2014".
Analysts say South Sudan stands to gain a lot from once it is admitted into the regional bloc, which would give the new nation access to a market of some 140 million people. South Sudan would also be able to benefit from existing infrastructure such as roads, ports, railways and airports.
At the Kampala summit member countries also signed a monetary union protocol due to be operational at the beginning of next year, which is expected to further advance the economic integration of the region.
"The summit approved and signed the protocol on the establishment of the East African monetary union and directed that all partner states should conclude the ratification process of the protocol by July 2014", the EAC said.
Member states also received a progress report on Somalia's application to join the EAC. A team has been set to verify the country's application and is due to submit its report in November 2014.