Tanzania: Why Tanzania Won't Close Borders

INSPITE of technological advancements in the transportation sector, land-linked countries are still continuing to face challenges in reaching the world market in exporting and importing goods.

Their economic survival depends more on neighbouring countries that have direct links to water transport, which is the main world means of transporting goods in large quantities.

It is obvious that water transport is cheaper, reliable and enables transportation of heavy consignments.

Amid the ongoing global battle against the novel virus, some countries have opted to close borders and enforce lockdown measures to impede the transmission.

However, Tanzania has opted to keep its borders open while taking strong measures to curb the scourge.

The largest East African country has focused on providing pre-cautions education, the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children imposed a 14 days mandatory quarantine at the first International Point of Entry in Tanzania for all travellers from countries which are most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The public has also been instructed to wear face masks, maintain social distancing and immediately report cases to the designated health centres.

Closing borders would mean banning movements of people from one country to another, and this would involve banning transportation of goods, which is improper when it comes to both social and economic growth.

Tanzania, through its Dar es Salaam, Tanga and Mtwara ports, provides a gateway to neighbouring countries, which are land-linked.

According to the World Bank, the Dar es Salaam Port alone provides a gateway for 90 per cent of Tanzanian trade and is also the access route to six land-linked countries, including Malawi, Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Through Tanzanian ports, neighbouring countries import oil, which is the main and a key factor of moving the economies.

They also import vehicles, industrial machines, spare parts, construction materials and many other crucial materials that in one way or another help to keep their economies health.

At the same time, the same neighbouring countries use Tanzanian ports especially the main Dar es Salam Port, for exporting agriculture and other products from their countries. Zambia exports copper through Dar es Salaam.

According to international media 'Reuters', estimates for copper cathodes and copper concentrate exports through Dar es Salaam have increased by between 20 per cent and 25 per cent.

It is estimated that Zambia sent around 12,000 tonnes of copper through Dar es Salaam in April, which was more than twice the usual average of 5,000 tonnes.

It is after some ports in the southern countries set some restrictions on the entry of trucks from the copper belt.

Attending Sunday mass celebration in Chato, President John Magufuli clarified that Tanzania would not close its borders. He said Tanzania was centrally located to serve others through its geographical position.

"We can't close borders because the move would trigger problems to our neighbours, they will not get oil, vehicles will not be able to move in those countries and even the ambulances will not be able to ferry patients to hospitals, Tanzania cannot afford that heartless action," he said, adding: "When the snake enters into the house, you do not force everybody out without identifying where it is hiding... you must act very carefully to avoid more problems."

On Wednesday, Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, said the government had instructed customs officers working on all the One-Stop Border Posts-OSBPs to suspend unnecessary checks that could affect the flow of goods and services.

"We have advised our officers to avoid imposing restrictions that could affect the movement of important commodities to land-linked countries, notably during the coronavirus pandemic," he pointed out.

According to WHO and health ministries in various African countries, the Covid-19 transmissions are already at community level, which means the governments are fighting the enemy that has already crossed borders.

Thus closing borders and chasing away visitors is not the case at the moment. As some countries are now easing lockdown measures, the same practice will probably happen in opening up borders.

However, it may take time for some people to understand the implications of closing borders.

Last month, the Special Envoy to WHO and Director- General on Convid-19, Dr David Nabarro, recommended a Covid-Ready society in which people will learn to live with the virus instead of unending lockdown as a preventive measure having produced no vaccines or cure for the virus.

Dr Nabarro made the statement through his Twitter account, stating that unending lockdown may do more harm than good as a result of its effects to people and economies of nations at large.

"We have all got to learn to live with this virus, to do our business with this virus in our presence, to have social relations with this virus in our presence and not to be continuously in lockdown because of the widespread infections that can occur," Dr Nabarro stated.

As of yesterday, WHO statistics show that confirmed Covid-19 cases had reached 4,218,212, and confirmed deaths were 290 242.

The data were obtained from 216 countries or areas or territories with cases. US remained on top of the most affected countries worldwide, having reported 83,449 deaths and 1,408,745 cases.

However, the country's director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said many experts believe more people in the US had died from the scourge than those who have been reported.

However, some states in the richest nation have already started to reopen businesses and other economic activities.

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