Tanzania and its northern neighbour Kenya have agreed to end their trade dispute, a move that is bound to increase intra-trade within the East African Community (EAC). The agreement bodes well for unity and development of the two countries, and we applaud both governments for realising the significance of removing trade barriers within the six-nation bloc.
The dispute saw Kenya banning cooking gas and wheat imports from Tanzania, while the latter blocked Kenyan milk and tyres from entering its territory. If nothing else, the row was making a mockery of the efforts which the countries had put into enhancing regional integration.
Trade between Tanzania and Kenya constitutes over 45 per cent of the entire trade within the EAC.
Thus - considering the relatively huge trade volume between the two nations - it is our belief that the differences will not take long to be ironed out once and for all. This is for the good of both countries in particular and regional integration in general.
Key issues discussed during the meeting ranged from how to resolve multiple levies and other charges; lack of preferential trade arrangements; the need for standardised inspection fees; delays at border checkpoints; slow customs procedures at border crossings and slow implementation of relevant EAC directives.
Private sector representatives from the two countries made presentations highlighting trade and investment opportunities in aviation, mining, petroleum and transportation - among many more - which the two countries agreed to pursue as soon as the current trade barrier issues are resolved.
We understand that Tanzania and Kenya considered many factors before taking such drastic moves, which have seen trade between the two fall, albeit slightly.
Protectionism in itself is not a bad thing, but if and when it is overdone, our countries may end up in a lose-lose situation.
Tanzania and Kenya need each other.
Improving ease of doing business in the region is paramount, if only because the people in the EAC bloc benefit from flourishing regional trade. We strongly believe that there are a lot more benefits from having open borders than there would be when countries unduly restrict trade.