The spat between Kenya and Tanzania is the latest twist in the uncomfortable relationship between these two East African neighbours. The situation has always been tense and these countries merely tolerate each other despite the fact that they need each other and trade with each.
Tanzania is blocking Kenyan trucks at the Lunga Lunga/Horohoro and Taveta/Holili border points in response to Kenya’s demand that truck drivers be tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to cross into Kenya.
Tanzania has been charting its own path with regard to Corona virus with President Magufuli insisting on prayers, very doubtful testing and no reporting of positive cases for over 2 weeks . As a result, the neighbouring countries have been routinely detecting positive cases from Tanzanian truck drivers.
Trade between the two neighbours annually reaches Ksh 62 Billion. The people living near the borders routinely cross from side to side in search of livelihood. The Kenyan minister for East African affairs, Adan Mohamed is downlplaying the tiff:
We are aware that there are a few trucks of Kenyan registration that have been denied access and entry into Tanzania, but we have not stopped processing vehicles coming from Tanzania into Kenya
The Business Daily reports
Goods trucked from Tanzania – including fresh produce such as onions and oranges – last year jumped by more than half, growing 53.79 percent to Sh27.70 billion from Sh18.01 billion in 2018
Goods trucked into Tanzania by Kenyan companies and traders last year increased 12.99 percent to Sh33.86 billion, trade data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows.
Kenya and Tanzania can huff and puff as much as they want but it seems two truths will remain:
- The two countries need each other more than they are willing to admit
- Both countries are led led by idiots who place ego above national welfare and are too proud to talk to each other like grown-ups
State bureaucracy can be irritating. Regional bureaucracy in “matters of mutual interest” can be downright maddening. The Business Daily reports that the East Africa Community postponed an important session that was to discuss regional response against COVID-19, including the fiscal, economic and social consequences on the EAC. The postponement was at the request of South Sudan.
In a statement to newsrooms, the regional bloc said the meeting convened to discuss the coronavirus pandemic via video conferencing had been postponed to a later date at South Sudan’s request
One can only hope that the new date for the meeting will be set soon and the meeting will actually happen this time and quick decisions will be taken and the decisions will be implemented uniformly and the progress will be tracked and that there will be constant and prompt changes if needed.
Too much to hope for? I am afraid so.
However the challenge ahead is grave and the secretariat has correctly identified things that need to be decided upon, quickly.
Ahead of the meeting, the secretariat had proposed an array of incentives aimed at boosting resilience of firms and cushioning low income households.
I suppose these are not high on the priority of some countries in this region. The assumption that EAC still has time to deliberate and take action is dangerous. Even at the best of times, our economies barely inch forward. That our fragile economies will be affected negatively is not a risk at this point in time – it is already a certainty and the EAC secretariat has already identified the areas that need solid actions.
The secretariat wants countries to institute stimulus packages to boost local production and promote imports substitution. It also wants them to apply monetary and fiscal measures to counter inflationary pressures
Whatever decisions are taken, partner states typically need more time to implement. That time is what we, collectively, just do not have. Each day that passes without clear decisions means prolonged suffering within EAC boundaries. The time for proper leadership is now and as expected, our leaders are failing us.