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Strong in gold, weak in shilling-tz in east africa

Strong in gold, weak in shilling-tz in east africa

The men and women who toil across the border between Holili in Tanzania and Taveta in Kenya have made their verdict known, and the verdict is, give us free movement of goods and, eh, persons. These last two weeks we have been on the prowl and for the benefit of our readers, it has been a roller coaster of events, travelling the Dala Dala with women carrying all sorts of goods, being confronted by Revenue Authority officials and facing a hostile team of traders, money changers actually, who objected to their pictures being taken without their permission.

It is amazing how much information one can get from a day of cross-cutting interaction with among others, Governments functionaries across two borders, stiff-necked, openly hostile and on the offensive (sometimes), traders who obviously care least about anything but what they take home to their families and the might of Revenue authority officials. Each of these groups has vested interest that they are protecting and understandably so. Each one of them sees the other as prey, often manipulative and interested in getting undue advantage over the other.

It is only after they gain your trust that they can tell you why the situation is so: the issue of human trafficking is very much on Immigration officer Shaban’s mind. This happens when inadvertently, our Somali brothers get caught in a complex web where they pay as much as US$10,000 to be delivered to safe havens where they have a hope in life. So, a Somalia Somali, from Mogadishu pretends to be a Kenyan Somali and gets a hold of a fake Kenyan Passport and arrives in Holili with a passport that Kenyan authorities have stamped exit ready for entry into Tanzania.

Such is the deep desire to find a meaningful life, that they are willing to get illegal documents(fakes) to gain  illegal entry,  that they are ready to die inside trucks, literally die trying. On the other hand, a significant number of Tanzanian men and women are involved in cross border trade who are simply filling a gap, the gap of demand meeting supply. There are traders willing to pay in advance for these cross border traders to deliver goods from the Kenyan side which are available in Tanzania only, one makes a little more cash if they are procured in Kenya.

They are, as well willing to withstand misfortune to make hay while the sun shines, and they, sometimes do. That means sometimes, the deal goes sour and the Revenue guys show up, stone faced and, using powers conferred only on them, impound the goods and make the whole journey turn into a nightmare.

So do they go back, oh yes they do! These traders live to fight another day and they live on hope, hope there shall be a better tomorrow. Their hopes and aspirations are that East Africa Community comes today and not tomorrow with the twin benefits of less harassment or none across and one “sarafu”, a single money unit. Ordinarily these people do not understand why Tanzania, with all its mineral wealth, its shilling is 18 times cheaper than the Kenyan shilling and when they ask, I too am at a loss of answers. In comes the boda bodas, they are the means of communication plying between the paved Tanzanian roads and the dusty Kenya road to & from Taveta. To them, a closed border means lack of food on the table and a livelihood lost.

They have to make ends meet. They have worked the border over the years and know the rules both written and unwritten. It is important to them that trade flows because increased trade means increased business. It is all these competing interests that the East African Integration dream has to address. The on-going discussions on a monetary Union, free movement of goods and persons are the building blocks towards these efforts.

By the time you are reading this there is every likelihood that there is a chance that these efforts shall yield fruit and that talking to the man on the street, the boda rider and the truck driver, the women traders and Government functionaries is one step towards finding harmony in the direction that shall make East African Integration worthy every effort that has been put in. *The writer, a Media consultant, is the founder of  Media Development Rights Agenda.

He can be reached on  info@mediagenda.net. 

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Author: K’Oyoo Nick

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