Nairobi. Tanzania and Kenya have held successful talks that will see the lifting of restrictions on imports from either country.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr Augustine Mahiga, announced the decision in Nairobi yesterday following discussions between President John Magufuli and his Kenyan counterpart, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta.
As a result, Kenya will lift the ban on wheat flour and gas imports from Tanzania, which, in turn, will remove restrictions on milk and cigarettes from Kenya.
Additionally, the two countries will form a standing joint technical committee to address various issues.
Diplomatic and trade relations between Kenya and Tanzania had been strained for some time, with both imposing tit-for-tat bans on each other’s exports.
The ban on Tanzania’s imports was ostensibly attributed to safety and quality concerns, and Tanzania reciprocated by slapping a ban on Kenyan tyres, margarine and fermented milk.
Tanzania also banned overland transport of maize from Zambia into Kenya, which is experiencing one of the severest shortages of the staple.
The trade tiff is strange, given the huge volumes of goods flowing between the two countries and the potential harm that trade disputes could cause.
Industry, Trade and Investment Permanent Secretary Adolf Mkenda had a few weeks ago said no action had been forthcoming from Nairobi since February and June when the two countries agreed that the ban be lifted.
Kenya argued that wheat imports from Tanzania were outside the common external tariff benchmarks to allow free entry into the country.
But Prof Mkenda accused Kenya of bad faith, breaching agreements between the two countries and ignoring directives from the EAC secretariat.
“Tanzania will not sit idly as its traders are denied entry into Kenya for no good reason. This will not happen.
“We are weighing all our options and they are several, which I may not want to state,” the PS told The Citizen in an interview on July 14.
Towards the end of June, Dar expressed its disappointment over Nairobi’s refusal to allow Tanzanian exporters to transport cooking gas to Kenya through Kenya-Tanzania land borders.
Prof Mkenda said Kenya’s decision was against East Africa Community protocol and an agreement reached between the two countries after Kenya imposed a ban on the importation of cooking gas from Tanzania on May 18, 2017.
Kenya imposed the ban despite the fact that it was decided during the meeting held on June 2, 2017, that Kenya should lift its restrictions in adherence to the EAC protocol.
By that time, Prof Mkenda added, the government had already registered its complaints to the Kenyan counterpart and was contemplating its next course of action.
Apart from imposing a ban on importation of cooking gas through the two countries’ borders, the Kenyan government also imposed a ban on the importation of wheat, something Prof Mkenda said was against EAC trade regulations.
The ban caught most dealers who rely on cooking gas from Tanzania unawares and most said they had no prior knowledge of the plan.