What businesses wish as Samia pays visit to Kenya

Tuesday May 04 2021
S8
By Alex Nelson Malanga

Dar es Salaam. In a bid to bolster trade between Tanzania and Kenya, members of the business community are pushing for about seven issues that they want addressed during President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s two-day State visit to Nairobi.

The issues to be presented in the business forum in Kenya include restoring trust between the two parties, addressing non-tariff barriers (NTBs), harmonisation of laws and regulations and the need to improve government agencies’ services at the borders.

The list also includes forging partnership between businessmen and traders from the two parties to reposition the Covid-19 hit tourism sector, pushing the agenda of value addition to the products and cementing economic diplomacy and partnership within the region and across the world.

While in Kenya for a two-day State visit from today, President Hassan, accompanied with 50 business people, private sector leaders and government officials intends to meet business lobbies in Nairobi, after discussing bilateral issues with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) executive director Francis Nanai told The Citizen yesterday that they would use the business forum to push for restoration of trust with a view to bolstering business and investments between the two countries.

The Tanzania Revenue Authority and Bank of Tanzania computations, provisional data shows that Tanzanian trade with Kenya recorded a deficit of $35.8 million in 2018, down from a surplus of $90.2 million in 2017.

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Mr Nanai was optimistic that with regaining trust, the question of NTBs would be addressed and eventually boost trade volume between the two parties.

He added that trade between the two parties would flourish if the two governments will harmonise laws and regulations and make them predictable.

The TPSF boss added that they would push for the government agencies at the common border to be facilitative of trade - movement of goods and services - rather than just focusing on regulatory enforcement.

Tanzania Freight Forwarders Association’s president Edward Urio exuded his optimism that the meeting will come up with smooth and convenient business environment procedures between the two countries.

Referring to the Covid-19 restrictions which have been imposed now and then, he said he was positive the leaders of the two countries will come up with some protocols that will ease the cost of doing business.

In June last year, over 100 Tanzanian lorry drivers heading for Kenya were stranded at Namanga border following a dispute over their Covid-19 test results submitted to the Kenyan authorities.

Mr Urio was also positive the meeting will strengthen single customs territory, sharing information and access between logisticians across the region.

Currently, this access is limited to protect each member state’s interests under employment.

“Kenya has very stiff conditions for Tanzanians to get access to the Kenya Revenue Authority, Simbanet, and Kenya Ports Authority systems,” said Mr Urio.

One of the conditions, he said, was that they were supposed to give a banker’s guarantee from a reputable Kenyan bank, a requirement which he said is very expensive.

“Such stiff conditions should be eased. Our collateral should be our principle, who is the revenue authority,” noted Mr Urio.

“Otherwise, for us, this is NTB that increases the costs of doing business across the region.”

This as a result, leads to a limited number of companies which are able to enjoy opportunities available in East Africa and sidelining most of them, who are Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs).

Bakhresa Group Corporate Affairs Director Hussein Sufian expressed optimism that the State Visit by President Hassan would help to address some of the challenges exporters were grappling with.

“This will help us to use the available region’s potentials to the maximum,” said Mr Sufian.

The Tanzania Business Community Secretary General Abdallah Mwinyi was positive that the meeting would set a stage for boosting trade, especially for large-scale manufacturers operating between the two countries.

An Economist at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Prof Humphrey Moshi, believes that the President’s visit to Kenya would help to address the repeated trade war that has adversely affected the relationship between the two countries.

“President Samia’s visit to Kenya has come at the right time. I am positive they will chart a way forward for the challenges that have been worsening our relationship, which has been there for decades,” said Prof Moshi.

Prof Watengere Kitojo of the Centre for Diplomacy expressed the need for the two countries to solve the challenges that businesses from the two parties were grappling with as they need each other to boost trade and tourism.

“If we are to remove repeated conflicts we need a team of diplomats who will avoid uttering statements that are likely to fuel conflicts,” suggested Prof Kitojo.

In January, Kenya banned the importation of poultry and beef products from within and beyond East Africa. That was before banning importation of maize last March.