Kenya and Tanzania will be richly rewarded by the thawing of relations

President Uhuru Kenyatta with Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of the United Republic of Tanzania at State House, Nairobi on May 04, 2021. [PSCU, Standard]

In spite of the long-running frostiness that has sometimes characterised the relationship between Kenya and Tanzania, the two neighbours have strong bilateral ties and are partners in numerous areas such as trade, security, agriculture and education.

Unfortunately, this erosion of trust that ebbs and flows has sometimes degenerated into economic cold war where the movement of goods and people is restricted, thus curtailing growth.

Every time there has been a difference of opinion between the leadership of the two countries, it is usually characterised by hostility that includes sanctions by one nation, followed by a retaliation of sorts by the other.

While this has had the effect of stalling the rebuilding of trust, it appears that there is an unspoken acknowledgment that when the opportunity presents itself, amends must be made because the neighbours are joined at the hip.

The hostility between Kenya and Tanzania has watered down what could be a formidable regional bloc – the East African Community. While the EAC is hailed as a model bloc, particularly when pitted against many other similar alliances in Africa and the world that have failed to take off, it could be a lot better without the suspicions among member countries.

It is thus refreshing to see the two countries putting in the time and work to mend relations. The meeting yesterday between President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Suluhu Hassan gave hope to many Kenyans and Tanzanians that it is possible to open a new page and end the era of hostility.

While mending relations might not bring back the lost opportunities resulting from animosity between the two countries, numerous chances still abound for enterprising residents and companies.

These vary from the mega deals that include supply of natural gas by Tanzania to Kenya to trade in electricity between the two nations.

Already, the two countries are big trade partners, with the industries from both countries aware of the opportunities that exist. It is, however, critical to remove hurdles such as non-tariff barriers that have made cross-border trading difficult.

Kenya exports to Tanzania industrial products, including soaps, lubricants, vehicles, iron and steel, while Tanzania sells to Kenya products such as paper and paperboard, wood and cereals. The two countries need each other. The hostilities must end for the two economies to grow.