Samia Suluhu's visit signals better trade relations with Kenya

Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of the United Republic of Tanzania inspects a guard of honour mounted by the Kenya Defence Forces at State House, Nairobi on Tuesday, May 04, 2021. [PSCU, Standard]

Kenya and Tanzania yesterday turned over a new page when they committed to enhancing bilateral ties, signalling an end to a turbulent chapter marked with trade barriers and strife at their borders.

President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted Tanzania President Samia Suluhu, who is in the country for a two-day state visit at State House, Nairobi, where she inspected a guard of honour, complete with a 21 gun-salute.

The two later met for private talks and a bilateral meeting with their delegations comprising senior government officials, which mainly focused on trade ties, firmed up with the signing of two co-operations.

At a joint press briefing after the meeting, Uhuru and Suluhu hailed the special relationship the two countries have and agreed to solve issues that impeded trade and strain relations.

This painted the picture of a re-energised partnership, one that would address challenges in trade, health, and the fight against terrorism.

The leaders said they would invigorate the joint commission of cooperation between the two countries and be more deliberate about their relationship. “This is a historic visit that will guide our relationship as neighbors. ...Your visit gives us an opportunity to renew our bilateral relations. We want to assure you that Kenya will be on the front line to work with and support you,” said President Kenyatta.

Suluhu’s visit comes after the last one by the late President John Magufulii on October 31, 2016.

To reciprocate her invitation and reception in Nairobi, she said, President Kenyatta will be the chief guest during Tanzania’s 60th independence celebrations in December. 

Today Suluhu will deliver a landmark address to a joint sitting of Parliament. The two leaders witnessed signing of two bilateral agreements - the joint construction of a gas pipeline between Dar es Salaam and Mombasa; and cooperation in culture, arts, social integration, and national heritage. Uhuru said the gas pipeline from Tanzania would have an effect on the price of electricity and Kenya’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.

“This will reduce the price of electricity in Kenya and ensure industries get environment friendly energy,” he said.

He further said that Kenya would fast-track the construction of a highway linking Malindi to Baga Moyo in Tanzania. Uhuru announced that they agreed to improve communication and transport between the two countries over air, rail, sea, and road.

The leaders discussed the possibility of reviving the ship transportation on Lake Victoria from Jinja in Uganda, Kenya to Tanzania. “We are not only neighbors geographically, but have other elements in common such as culture, language and shared heritage,” Uhuru stated.

President Suluhu said Tanzania had no closer ally than Kenya, nor did it have a larger trading partner in the region.

“We have discussed many things, but what I want to emphasize is promoting and strengthening cooperation between our two nations. That is the primary issue. Tanzania and Kenya are not just neighbors, we are brothers,” Suluhu said.

She noted that Kenyan businesses had invested $1.7 billion (Sh182 billion) in Tanzania and employed more than 51,000 locals.

Comparatively, there are 30 Tanzanian companies in Kenya employing some 2,600 people.

Other than her engagements with State House, Suluhu is set to meet the Tanzanian business community.

Some of the topics for discussion are incentives to attract more Tanzanians into the Kenyan market and increasing the volume of trade. “We have agreed on the measures to take to increase trade and investments between us. We have a lot of under-exploited opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing, fisheries, and tourism,” Suluhu said.

In order to grow trade and investments, the Tanzanian President said, Nairobi and Dodoma agreed to continue addressing challenges, especially those that were not related to levies that have cropped up at the borders.

Suluhu urged the Kenya-Tanzania Joint Permanent Commission to come up with solutions to some of the trade barriers.

The Tanzanian president is pursuing a different foreign policy from her predecessor Magufuli. She has announced new measures to curb Covid-19 and is reaching out to regional allies. Some of the issues on the table was Tanzania’s Covid-19 response and alignment of the protocols between the two countries.

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