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Kenya-Tanzania mistrust and trade war fuelled by Covid-19

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Kenya and Tanzania have disagreed before, but leaders of the two countries have in the last few years ended the disputes or conveniently ignored them.

Coronavirus has stirred the pot, awakening the trade jabs between East African Community (EAC) members with the largest economies.

From sugar, milk, eggs, confectionery, wheat and other goods, Kenya and Tanzania have squared it out through blockades, which have ended up at the EAC Secretariat in Arusha.
Spreading the disease.

Tanzania announced a ban on Kenyan truck drivers entering its territory on Monday, accusing Nairobi of sabotaging its battle on Covid-19.


The reaction was in response to President Kenyatta’s Saturday directive on mandatory coronavirus screening for drivers at border points.


Tanga Regional Commissioner Martin Shigella said closing the border is aimed at stopping coronavirus infections, accusing Kenyans of spreading the disease in Tanzania.

“From today, authorities should not allow Kenyan truck drivers in our country. Tanzanians attempting to cross into Kenya are facing many difficulties. Don’t go there to buy items anymore,” Mr Shigella said. He added that goods destined for Kenya would be unloaded at the border “where their owners should get them”.

Later, Tanzanian Health minister Ummy Mwalimu clarified that Kenyan lorry drivers would be allowed in as long as they obey the anti-coronavirus measures. “Truck crews will be screened at points of entry,” she said.

EAC Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed downplayed the dispute yesterday, terming it an isolated case. He, however, admitted that at least five Kenyan trucks at Holili border post were denied entry into Tanzania.

In the last two days, Kenya refused entry to more than 51 Tanzanians after they tested positive for coronavirus.

Kenya has predicted a 30 per cent drop of exports to the East African markets as measures adopted to fight the outbreak slow trade.
Tanzania and Uganda remain Kenya’s biggest export countries and any interruptions hurt local manufacturers.

Last year, Kenya exported merchandise valued at Sh140 billion to the East African market.
Kenya exported goods valued at Sh33.61 billion to Tanzania, while Uganda imported Sh64 billion of Kenyan products.

Kenya’s exports to Tanzania rose by Sh3.87 billion, or 13.03 per cent — the highest value since President John Magufuli’s first year in office.

It was, however, below the 2016 high of Sh34.80 billion.

The fall in trading volumes between the two counties was caused by tariff and non-tariff barriers fuelled by mistrust and long-standing disputes.

Last July, President Kenyatta met Mr Magufuli. The leaders pledged to improve trade ties between their two countries.

The countries did away with 25 of the 37 tariff and non-tariff barriers — 15 on the Kenya side and 22 on Tanzania.

In February, however, Kenya Association of Manufacturers(KAM) demanded that Dar be forced to scrap “punitive taxes that make Kenya-made products unwelcome”.

KAM said Kenyan cigarettes entering Tanzania were being subjected to 80 per cent higher taxes despite an earlier pact by the two countries’ officials.