Samia, Ruto resolve earns plaudit

THE private sector in the East African Community (EAC) has commended the resolve by Tanzania and Kenya to fast-track addressing remaining non-tariff barriers (NTBs) between the two countries by the end of this year, towards bolstering regional integration.

In separate telephone interviews with this paper, the industry players were confident that the decision will encourage other member states to follow suit and eventually spur trade in all seven members’ states of the regional grouping.

This follows the move by Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan and her Kenyan counterpart, Dr William Ruto, who had on Monday directed their responsible ministers and technocrats to accelerate elimination of remaining 14 NTBs before the end of this year.

The two leaders made the commitment at the Magogoni State House in Dar es Salaam shortly after holding bilateral discussions and wrapping up President Ruto’s two-day working visit in Tanzania.

The bilateral discussions, according to President Samia, were centred on enhancing ties between Tanzania and Kenya, including ways in which, the two nations can gain from removing trade restrictions.

Technocrats from the two countries had identified 68 NTBs but so far 54 have been addressed and eliminated, while the remaining 14 barriers are slated to be removed in the near future.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the ‘Daily News’, the Executive Director of the East African Business Council (EABC), Mr John Bosco Kalisa, said the decision by Tanzania and Kenya on the matter will encourage other countries in the region to open up their boarders for trade.

“What Tanzania and Kenya decided on is a positive move and we applaud it, we should do away with unnecessary barriers to bolster trade in the region. More focus should be put on improving trade amongst ourselves as members of the EAC.

“It is only through trade that we can be able to improve prosperity and welfare of our people. It is high time all EAC members open up their boarders by doing away with unnecessary restrictions which hinder smooth flow of people and goods,” he urged.

Mr Kalisa was highly optimistic that opening boarders through elimination of NTBs will play a crucial role in spurring trade within the region.

On the same note, the Vice-Chairperson of Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), Mr Paul Makanza, said the resolve by Tanzania and Kenya on elimination of the remaining barriers signifies commitment of the two countries towards regional integration.

“It is a very positive move between the two countries and as members of the business community, we are very excited. We must trade more between member states of EAC as a regional bloc,” he suggested.

Mr Makanza urged all member states of the EAC to address all NTBs which have been affecting business and investment towards promoting trade among member states of the regional grouping.

An economist and former Executive Director of Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), Dr Bohela Lunogelo, urged the Joint Commission for Collaboration (JCC) between the two countries to meet frequently and address challenges facing cross-boarder trade between the two countries.

Dr Lunogelo as well as urged governments within the region to communicate to their people existing barriers for trade and benefits of regional integration.

“In Tanzania for instance, there has been deep-rooted misconception that that Kenyans benefit more from them and yet the opposite is true. These issues must be communicated to the people to enable them appreciate benefits of regional integration,” he proposed.

So far, available statistics indicate that the balance of trade between Tanzania and Kenya has been in favour of the former over the past year.

During the past one year, the value of exports from Tanzania to Kenya grew from 521bn/- to 964bn/-, while exports from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam grew from 598bn/- to 868bn/-.

Dr Lunogelo was of a view that the value of Tanzanian exports to Kenya would have been even higher if farm produce and other goods sold to that country were added value.

“Most of our exports to Kenya, especially farm products are sold in raw form and thus earn us less little. The produce would have fetched us more money if they were sold after being processed,” the economist pointed, matter-of-factly.

The economist also urged member states of the EAC to harmonise their working hours at boarder posts so as to avoid delays and long queues of trucks at the crossing point.

Dr Lunogelo also spoke on harmonization of standards of some exports and imports on issues such as aflatoxins.

“For instance, most of the maize produced in the region have some levels of aflatoxins which are tolerable, the countries should thus harmonize standards of tolerable levels to be allowed in all countries and this will reduce complaints among the member states,” he advised.

He also called for establishment of systems where traders from the region can purchase farm produce from other countries at regulated prices unlike now where the process is undertaken haphazardly and deny fair prices to farmers.

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