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Kenya-Tanzania trade picking after covid-19

The trade between Kenya and Tanzania along the Isebania border is slowly picking after the disruption occasioned by the outbreak of Covid-19.

During bilateral talks led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Tanzania Head of State Samia Suluhu Hassan on May 4, 2021, the two noted that Kenya and Tanzania need to develop modalities for mutual recognition of Covid-19 test results, noting that the lack of harmonized protocols has hampered the free flow of goods and people.

Millicent Robi, A business woman from Kenya at her rice selling station along the Kenya-Tanzania border. Photo by Polycarp Ochieng

The leaders also noted that trade between Kenya and Tanzania was facing some administrative challenges, such as non-tariff barriers and other restrictions, which are frustrating trade and investment between the two countries. They agreed to eliminate barriers hindering the smooth flow of trade and people between the two East African nations.

However, four months down the line, traders along the Isebania Kenya-Tanzania border still face the same hurdles and trading barriers that have been imposed on them by both local authorities. Both traders across the border cite unfair treatment and high taxation.

Mrs. Millicent Robi, a 50-year-old rice seller from Kenya says that they take rice in small quantities from Tanzania and resell it in Kenya. She however, says that they are expected to pay tax almost equivalent to those of large-scale traders which hurts their businesses.

“The nature of our business entails taking goods on loan from Tanzania traders where we sell and pay on a later date. When our goods are confiscated, we are always left in a bad state as we have to look for other alternative ways to pay the suppliers,” bemoans Robi.

Robi acknowledges that trading with their Tanzanian counterparts has always been on a mutual understanding and that she is optimistic to reap more. She notes that the government should intervene and help regulate the business and make the business environment fair and favorable.

Japheth Mogaya, 36 a trader from Tarime Tanzania says that he makes a small profit margin from his small business as the taxes involved are hefty. He says authorities don’t tax them depending on the size of their businesses.

He notes that those small-scale traders should be taxed separately to ensure fairness to enable them to make a profit. Mogaya says that the issue of high taxation by local authorities discourages them from coming to trade with Kenyans. However, he believes the resolutions will be made to help their small businesses.

James Nyamohanga, a boda boda rider who ferry passengers and goods across the border says that they are forced to go around a long way to the other side around the border post, as they are banned by the border authorities from accessing Tanzania directly due to strict Covid-19 protocols, which he terms to be unfair.

He cites his frustration as he is forced to spend much fuel that has become too costly after the recent rise of the commodity in Kenya. Nyamohanga notes that they do not pay access charges to the other side of the border because they do not pass through the border post. He however, says that this makes both countries lose a lot of revenue in the process.

“Boda boda is a booming business here on the border and if we are denied a direct entry to pass through the border post by both countries, the governments will keep losing huge revenues as we make profits,” said Nyamahonga.

Last year the East African Business Council (EABC) called upon the East African Community Partner states to allow movement of persons across border posts and to lift the restrictions currently in place that were majorly brought about by the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Strategic Plan of 2018-2022, the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development placed emphasis on trade promotion and development as well as creating an enabling environment for domestic and export trade. The plan was anchored on the Kenya Vision 2030 that envisages progressively making Kenya an industrialized, middle-income status with high quality of life to her citizens.

BY Polycarp Ochieng and George Agimba 

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