South Africa becomes the latest country to send an envoy to represent it at the East African Community (EAC) headquarters in Arusha. The South African ambassador to Tanzania, Henry Thanduyise Chiliza, joins 16 other diplomats from countries, trading blocks and international organizations to recognize the growing importance of the EAC.

After years of inactivity the EAC, which comprises Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, is beginning to emerge as a force to be reckoned with both in terms of population (about 132 million) and economics. Trade in the area is estimated to grow in 2011 at a rate of six per cent. Plans are now ahead in the EAC not just for a free trading zone but a single passport area and a monetary union.

South African diplomatic representation is particularly important because it strengthens EAC ties with other southern African trading blocks such as the South African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

The other countries to have representatives to the EAC are Brazil, USA, Denmark, Turkey, Democratic Republic of Congo, Netherlands, Japan, Belgium, France, Canada, India, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the European Union, Finland, Sudan and the United Kingdom.

The new ambassador comes to Tanzania from four years' experience as South African ambassador to Uganda.