The Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr. Augustine Mahiga, announced the decision in Nairobi yesterday following discussions between President John Magufuli and his Kenyan counterpart, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta. As a result, Kenya will lift the ban on wheat flour and gas imports from Tanzania, which, in turn, will remove restrictions on milk and cigarettes from Kenya. Additionally, the two countries will form a standing joint technical committee to address various issues.
Diplomatic and trade relations between Kenya and Tanzania had been strained for some time, with both imposing tit-for-tat bans on each other’s exports. The ban on Tanzania’s imports was ostensibly attributed to safety and quality concerns, and Tanzania reciprocated by slapping a ban on Kenyan tyres, margarine, and fermented milk. Tanzania also banned the overland transport of maize from Zambia into Kenya, which is experiencing one of the severest shortages of the staple.
The trade tiff is strange, given the huge volumes of goods flowing between the two countries and the potential harm that trade disputes could cause. Kenya argued that wheat imports from Tanzania were outside the common external tariff benchmarks to allow free entry into the country.
Prof Mkenda said Kenya’s decision was against East Africa Community protocol and an agreement reached between the two countries after Kenya imposed a ban on the importation of cooking gas from Tanzania on May 18, 2017. Kenya imposed the ban despite the fact that it was decided during the meeting held on June 2, 2017, that Kenya should lift its restrictions in adherence to the EAC protocol.