President Samia Suluhu Hassan

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan addresses participants at the Kenya-Tanzania business forum held at the Serena Hotel, Nairobi, on May 5, 2021.

| Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group 

On ‘uhuru’ to do business, Suluhu brings solutions to trade barriers

What you need to know:

  • Trade, health, infrastructure, gas, culture and tourism were among the sectors discussed in the bilateral talks.
  • Leaders pledged to ensure implementation of MoUs and other instruments.

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu ended her Kenyan visit on a high note with a sprightly address to both houses of Parliament that extolled relations between the two countries and listed resolutions and agreements reached in her two-day tour of Nairobi.

Trade, health, infrastructure, gas, culture and tourism were among the sectors discussed in the bilateral talks between visiting President Suluhu and her host President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Ms Suluhu interspersed her public addresses with light moments intended to publicly display Tanzania’s camaraderie towards Kenya, helping to ease tension that had built during the last months of President John Pombe Magufuli’s rule, when the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted cross-border trade.

Magufuli died on March 17.

“You’re lucky to have on this side of the border Uhuru (freedom) to do business and on the other Suluhu (solution) to all trade barriers; it’s now all up to you,” President Suluhu quipped as she addressed business leaders at a Nairobi hotel, to loud applause from the audience.

While addressing parliamentarians, President Suluhu joked about the Swahili spoken in Kenya, terming it as “highly entertaining.” She brought to life the globally famous annual wildebeest migration by making fun of “the animals that come to Kenya to mate and cross the border to Tanzania to give birth.” 

In a joint communiqué issued later in the evening by both Presidents, the two leaders said they started their bilateral meeting by paying tribute to John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, the Fifth President of Tanzania.

“The leaders recognised his immense contribution towards the course of the East African Community and in fostering and nurturing bilateral relations and cooperation between these two countries,” the communiqué from State House stated.

“The two Heads of State noted with satisfaction the existing bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries in [regard to] political, defence, security, economic and social spheres, premised on geographical proximity and demographic fraternity,” the brief added.

Bilateral cooperation

Kenya and Tanzania also reiterated their commitment to strengthening bilateral cooperation in trade and investment, mining, energy, livestock, transport, defence and security, including fighting terrorism and transnational organised crimes.

The two Heads of State presided over the signing of two bilateral instruments, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the development of a natural gas export project from Tanzania to Kenya and another on cooperation in culture, arts, social integration and national heritage.

They pledged to ensure immediate implementation of the two MoUs and other instruments to be signed in future. Both leaders directed ministers responsible for trade to resolve non-tariff barriers in order to increase the volume of trade. The ministers were also directed to meet regularly to address emerging challenges.

They told responsible authorities to expedite the reaffirmation and demarcation of the border by ensuring that sufficient resources are committed towards the process to enable the two countries meet the 2022 deadline set by the African Union (AU). 

Ministers responsible for Health were directed to meet to discuss and establish simplified systems for facilitating testing and timely issuance of Covid-19 results, to ease the movement of people, goods and services across the common border. 

On tourism, they told their ministries to address the existing challenges to ease movement within the tourism corridors.

They affirmed their commitment to speed up the implementation of air, railway, maritime and road transportation networks, including the ongoing construction of the Malindi-Lunga Lunga-Bagamoyo road and improvement of links between Kisumu, Bukoba and Mwanza ports.

They directed that joint technical committees be convened immediately to conclude consultations, to allow the ministers of Foreign Affairs of the respective countries to convene the meeting of the JCC as soon as possible.

EAC integration agenda

On regional cooperation, the leaders exchanged views on various development matters in the East African Community (EAC) and reaffirmed their commitment to continue working together in championing the EAC integration agenda Sixth EAC Development Strategy. 
Financial obligations

They also resolved to urge other EAC partner states to fulfil their financial obligations to the organisation.

On international cooperation, they reiterated their commitment to continue working closely at the level of the AU, as well as at the United Nations (UN), with a view to advancing the Common African Agenda for Integration and Sustainable Development.

The two leaders later addressed a joint business forum during which they urged the business community to embrace the spirit of cooperation between the two countries and to explore opportunities to enhance bilateral trade and investment.

They further directed the ministers of relevant sectors to meet as frequently as possible to address the Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) and find solutions to challenges relating to trade, including business visas, while respecting the laws and regulations of both countries.

In her address to Parliament, President Suluhu underscored the important role of the House in fostering and strengthening bilateral relations existing between Kenya and Tanzania. 

She further emphasised the primary responsibility of Parliament to enact good laws, to ensure accountability, to provide oversight in development, and to promote good governance.

President Suluhu invited President Kenyatta to a state visit and to be the guest of honour during the 60th independence celebrations for mainland Tanzania on December.