REGIONAL political and business commentators were yesterday lighthearted as President Samia Suluhu Hassan jetted in Nairobi.
President Suluhu held bilateral talks with her host, President Uhuru Kenyatta, before she addressed a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate.
President Samia’s visit came almost five years since her predecessor, the late John Pombe Magufuli, made similar visit.
In an interview with ‘Daily News’, East African Business Council(EABC) Board Director Mary Ngechu described the state visit as a show of political goodwill between the two leaders.
According to Ms Ngechu, the trip affirms the commitment to deepen the East African Community (EAC) regional integration agenda.
“The State visit comes at an opportune time…and goes to show that Tanzania-Kenya relations are a priority of President Samia Suluhu Hassan and the Tanzanian government,” offered the EABC Board Director.
While in Kenya, the President is set to attend and address a forum of Kenyan and Tanzanian businesspeople in Nairobi for the purpose of addressing various issues of trade and investment between the two countries.
“So opportune is the visit that it has come amid the pandemic when EAC economies have been heavily hit, strengthened relations between the two countries are set to make the region more resilient and reap mutual economic and political benefits,” she explained.
The EABC Board Directors is optimistic that the meeting between the two leaders will reassure the private sector of the commitment of the two countries to create a conducive business environment.
According to the board, the forum of Kenyan and Tanzanian businesspeople will further create a platform to listen to issues affecting cross border trade between the two countries and commit to enhancing trade.
The regional private sector is currently keen on the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) to ensure free flow of goods and services, adoption of business friendly legal regimes and reviewing of regulations governing issuing of trade licenses and work permits.
On his part, the chairperson of the Arusha chapter of the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), Walter Maeda welcomed President Samia’s visit to Kenya, saying it was the right way to mend fences with the neighboring country.
“The two countries need each other more than anything; we sell a lot of oranges, onions, maize and mangoes to Kenya while we import a huge chunk of veterinary products from them,” he observed.
Despite enjoying an overall trade volume of 18.8m US dollars, Tanzania and Kenya have in the past five years been embroiled in a sibling rivalry. “The visit will also resolve the diplomatic and trade tiff between the two long-time neighbors,” added Mr Maeda.
Echoing similar sentiments, the Chief Executive Officer of Friends of East Africa, a pressure group for regional integration based in Arusha, Allan Nswila heaped praise on President Samia’s approach of cementing the country’s place on the diplomatic front.
According to Mr Nswila, the Head of State is all out to give the regional private sector a fresh lease of life.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan address to Kenya’s parliament follows that of President Kikwete who did so just before his term elapsed almost seven years ago. Her trip is significant because it is an immediate response to an invitation from President Kenyatta last month.