Tanzania business sector upbeat on Kenya's elections

Retired President Jakaya Kikwete who is the head of the East Africa Community observer mission speak to media at Old Kibera polling station

What you need to know:

  • The Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) acting executive director Raphael Laizer was also full of optimism on increased trade volumes should Kenya remain calm.

Arusha/Dar. With anxiety growing as to who will become the new Kenyan leader, optimism is high among business sector players in Tanzania.

Even as the votes were being tallied last night, prominent individuals in Tanzania’s business sector played down any widespread disruptions that will affect trade with Tanzania.

“Kenya is an important trade partner with Tanzania as is to other countries in the region,” said Ms Sia Marunda of the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (Arusha Region).

She said despite some initial fears of chaos, what she gathered for the major part of yesterday was that vote casting was largely uninterrupted.

She said the business community in the northern regions, particularly Arusha, have always been affected by election-related trends in Kenya.

“It has reached a point where if vote casting is affected (in Kenya), trade and business with Tanzania get affected,” she told The Citizen

The Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) acting executive director Raphael Laizer was also full of optimism on increased trade volumes should Kenya remain calm.

He said trade volumes between the two countries registered a 38 percent growth in 2021 and that this is expected to rise should Kenya settle down after the polls.

According to the East African Business Council (EABC), Tanzania exported goods worth $ 118.6 million in the first quarter (January to March) of this year

During the same period, Kenya exports to Tanzania were valued at $139.4 million, meaning a trade surplus to Tanzania.

However, Mr Laizer asserted that the trade relations would rise to another level should Kenya get “ a president with political will to cement our trade ties.”

Tanzania Chamber Of Commerce Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) president Paul Koyi said Kenya will continue to be Tanzania’s business partner.

An economist from the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr Abel Kinyondo said once the dust settled in Nairobi the two countries should sit down and address the non-tariff barriers (NTBs) challenges.

The vibrancy of trade between the two countries is more pronounced at the Namanga border post where hundreds of tonnes of goods to both sides are cleared daily.

In the run up to the Kenya polls, there had been reports of declining exports of cereals from Tanzania to its northern neighbour. Other reports that there had been an influx of some Kenyans in Arusha fleeing for fear of possible violence have been dismissed.

However, Mr Aafeez Jivraj, an Arusha-based tour operator, recalled the impact on Tanzania tourism every time Kenya held elections in the past.

“Our tourism suffered during the 2007/08 chaos. It would be a great relief if there are no disturbances this time,” he told The Citizen.

He said a significant number of tourists heading to Tanzania from abroad pass through Kenya due to cheap landing fees there.

“We have a symbiotic relationship in tourism in the form of cross border safaris,” he said, praying for peaceful polls in Kenya.

John Bosco Kalisa, the EABC CEO said there had not been any signal of chaos on the Northern Corridor.

“There had been no sign of any disruptions to business and trade with Uganda and other land-locked states,” he said.

Mr Kalisa said he expected trade and business ties between Tanzania and Kenya to blossom after the coming in of the latter’s government.

The two members of the East African Community (EAC) are only the largest economies in the bloc but have attained low middle income status.

While Kenya has a GDP of $110 billion, Tanzania’s is currently pegged at $62 billion, according to EABC.

Mr.Kalisa said lately there had been declining trade barriers between Tanzania and Kenya due to the political will of the leaders.

“The current leadership in Tanzania is more entrepreneurship and business focused. It has a lot to offer to the new Kenya government,” he said.

Tanzania, too, has a comparative advantage in the production of cereals over and above Kenya while the latter has an advantage in manufactured goods.

In the post-Covid-19 era, Tanzania has registered a surplus in its trade with Kenya, according to statistics from the EABC. For the first eleven months of last year, the combined volume of trade between the two EAC partner states hit a record $1 billion.

Kenya imports from Tanzania stood at $501 million and exports $403.9 million during the period which followed President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s official visit to Kenya.