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We have failed our businesspeople, Suluhu tells Tanzanian, Kenyan leaders

By Brian Okoth | May 5th 2021

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu addressing Kenya’s joint Parliament sitting on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. [Standard]

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu has said the leaderships of Tanzania and Kenya have failed traders in both countries.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, May 5, when she addressed a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate, Suluhu said the common mwananchi is working hard to make ends meet, yet his leadership is working around the clock to craft rules and policies that stifle growth of businesses.

“Our citizens are ahead of us (leaders),” she said, adding: “We are formulating rules and policies that suppress their businesses, instead of providing them with an enabling environment to grow.”

Suluhu, consequently, urged leaders of both countries to be enablers, and not dream-crushers.

The visiting Head of State became the third foreign President to address Kenya’s Parliament, after Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan in 2013 and Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete in 2015.

“I am truly honoured to be accorded such respect and recognition,” she told the 112 lawmakers, who convened at Parliament Buildings for her address.

The President’s address saw 88 MPs and 24 senators allowed into the chambers, as the other 304 legislators followed the session remotely. The restricted attendance was to allow for observance of Covid-19 safety measures.

The National Assembly’s Standing Order Number 25 and the Senate’s Standing Order Number 26 allow for a visiting President to address the Houses of Parliament.

Suluhu said it was her first time in her lengthy political career to simultaneously address the membership of two Houses of Parliament.

“As you know, in Tanzania we have only one National Assembly,” she said.

Stating that her two-day stay in Kenya has been productive, the President thanked the Kenyan Government and its citizens for receiving her warmly.

“There was no moment of tension, whatsoever, when President Kenyatta and I held bilateral talks yesterday (Tuesday, May 4),” she said.

According to Suluhu, Kenya’s strained relationship with Tanzania is “only perceived, and not founded on any basis”.

Suluhu pledged to hold regular bilateral meetings with Kenya to ensure smooth bilateral operations between the two countries.

“My visit to Kenya was intentional, it wasn’t by coincidence,” she said.

“When you are an occupant of a new house, wisdom dictates you familiarise yourself with the neighbours. That is what I am doing after I was sworn into office on March 19, 2021,” added Suluhu.

The President said Kenya and Tanzania are joined at the hip by blood, geographical and cultural ties, and the unity shouldn’t be jeopardised.

Suluhu said the neighbours have had a mutually-beneficial relationship that has lasted 56 years.

Terming Kenya as Tanzania’s strategic trade partner, Suluhu said only the UK, the US, China and India have more high-value investments in Tanzania than Kenya.

“In Africa, Kenya leads in high-value investments in Tanzania than any other country,” she said.

Suluhu revealed that Kenya has invested 513 projects in her country, employing 51,087 people and contributing $1.7 billion (Ksh182 billion) to Tanzania’s economy.

Transport, banking, industries, service sector, mining, tourism and agriculture are some of the areas Kenya has invested heavily in in the neighbouring Tanzania.

In Kenya, she said, there are approximately 30 Tanzanian companies doing business, which contribute Sh19.33 billion to the Kenyan economy.

The firms, Suluhu stated, have created employment to 2,642 Kenyans.

“From the data, it is clear that Kenya has invested more in our country than we have in your country. We, as Tanzanians, need to pull up our socks in regard to investing in Kenya. The see-saw shouldn’t only favour us,” she said.

“Nevertheless, we still invite more Kenyans to invest in Tanzania.”

Suluhu revealed that goods worth Tsh390.6 billion (Ksh18 billion) were transported from Tanzania to Kenya in 2017. In 2020, that amount increased to Tsh526.3 billion (Ksh24.3 billion) in 2020.

Kenya, on the other hand, exported goods worth Tsh420 billion (Ksh19.4 billion) to Tanzania in 2017. In 2020, the value of the out-of-country shipping rose to Tsh571 (Ksh26.4 billion).

On the 500km Dar es Salaam to Mombasa gas pipeline agreement, Suluhu said Kenya and Tanzania would seek external funding to facilitate the construction.

“We (Tanzania and Kenya) need to work together to meet the building and technological costs,” she said.

Tanzania has an estimated 5.7 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in combined mainland and offshore hubs.

Suluhu completed her two-day State visit to Kenya on Wednesday, May 5.

She heads back to Tanzania hoping the rapprochement efforts she made in Kenya would bear fruit; this time around, for the long foreseeable future.

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