emoval of non-tariff barriers between Kenya and Tanzania has improved Kenya’s imports from Tanzania, which has exceeded its exports to the East African Community (EAC) partner state for the first time in decades.
The Joint Commission on Cooperation meeting held recently in Nairobi was told that the Joint Trade Committee has addressed 30 out of 64 challenges facing bilateral relations. The remaining 34 issues will be addressed before the end of this year, a joint dispatch from the JCC said.
The JCC is a bilateral organ composed of officials from the two countries created to resolve issues affecting areas of cooperation. The meeting was co-chaired by Foreign Affairs ministers Raychelle Omamo of Kenya and Tanzania’s Liberata Mulamula, while the trade committee was led by Trade ministers Betty Maina of Kenya and Tanzania’s Prof Kitila Mkumbo.
In June, a month after the State visit by Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu to Kenya, the committee identified 60 tariff and non-tariff barriers between the two countries.
Among those resolved are customs clearance of soft drinks made in their territories, removal of inspection fees on processed products with a standardization mark including wheat flour, and elimination of roaming calling fees following Tanzania’s entry into the Common Network Area.
There would also be preferential treatment on cement made in their territories and that Tanzania would install the Single Window System as Kenya did in 2013 to enable faster clearance of goods.
Further, the countries would harmonize standardization with veterinary products becoming valid for export for up to 30 days. A permanent committee has also been established to monitor the implementation of decisions made.
Fresh data by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) shows that Kenya’s imports from Tanzania grew nearly three-quarters in the six months to June 2021 compared with a year earlier—coinciding with the thawing of trade ties between the two nations.
The value of goods ordered from Tanzania — including cereals, wood, and edible vegetables — hit a high of Sh18.29 billion in the review period, according to data from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) published by the CBK.
The 70.06 percent surge in goods bought from Tanzania outpaced that of exports, which grew at a five-year high, resulting in a rare trade deficit of Sh1.02 billion.
The CBK data shows exports to Tanzania — including pharmaceutical products, plastics, iron, and steel — bumped 21.39 percent to Sh17.27 billion, the highest since the first half of 2016.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Tanzanian counterpart, Ms Suluhu, agreed to end persistent strained trade relations between the two largest economies in the six-nation EAC bloc which have, for years, hindered the smooth flow of goods and services.
Since Suluhu’s visit to Kenya, Nairobi and Dodoma have since established a joint mechanism for dealing with Covid-19, including testing and recognition of lab results and vaccination.
Countries’ top diplomats, who attended the JCC meeting, said they would use the next four months to fix the remaining crucial areas, including harmonizing health certification, especially in times of Covid-19.
Until early this year, Tanzania did not release official COVID-19 statistics or embraced the regional protocols adopted by the East Africa Community. One of the key initiatives that was rolled out to aid in cargo flow is the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS) that was supported by Trademark East Africa (TMEA).
RECDTS is designed as a mobile phone application that enables the issuance of the EAC COVID-19 digital certificates that are mutually recognized by Partner States, thus eliminating the need for multiple testing as well as contributing to easing congestion at East Africa border crossing points.
RECDTS provides a surveillance system to monitor long distance truckers’ crew health and enables contact tracing. It allows Partner States to electronically share truck drivers’ COVID-19 test results; therefore, minimising the need for multiple COVID-19 tests in a single trip.
When developing the application, TMEA partnered with East Africa Community (EAC), National Governments and key agencies in the private sector, including the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), who mobilized regional private sector players.