What you need to know:
- For the past six years under President John Magufuli, the fraternal ties between Kenya and Tanzania frittered.
- The two neighbouring countries were frequently embroiled in trade wars over tariffs and non-tariff barriers.
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu’s two-day State visit to Kenya starting today is a major turning point in the relationship between the two neighbouring countries. It is crucial for repairing broken ties, renewing networks, deepening regional integration and crafting common strategies for dealing with matters of mutual interests.
For the past six years under President John Magufuli, the fraternal ties between the neighbours — countries that have a long-shared history — frittered. Kenya and Tanzania were frequently embroiled in trade wars over tariffs and non-tariff barriers.
At one point Tanzania confiscated Kenya’s animals that strayed to its territory, blocked dairy and confectionery products, seized and burnt day-old chicks and levied fees on truckers. In recent times, the countries were at loggerhead over Covid-19 protocols.
Cumulatively, trade between the two countries suffered a setback. At the regional level, the suspicion and mistrust among the neighbouring countries slowed down core activities, among them, implementation of the Common Market Protocol intended to free movement of goods and people.
It is instructive that President Samia has directed a review of the country’s investment laws, which had been faulted for being repressive, unpredictable and inflexible, and locked out foreign businesses.
Reforming the trade laws, including work permit regulations, is critical in creating harmony with practices across the region. Moreover, President Samia has undertaken to re-establish the Joint Commission on Cooperation to tackle critical issues affecting the countries.
The visit coming after a similar one to Uganda is key to reinvigorating the spirit of regional integration. The East African Community (EAC) has lately been struggling lately due to waning political support and poor funding from the member States. Yet, the community holds great promise for the region at a time when elsewhere countries are consolidating and seeking new ways of relating with others.
President Samia has demonstrated desire to chart a new path for Tanzania and this visit provides a perfect moment for restoring ties and strengthening links with neighbours.