A joint team of Kenyan and Tanzanian officials have set December this year as time by which most of the non-tariff barriers affecting trade would have been resolved.
The decision came following a meeting of the Joint Commission on Cooperation (JCC), a bilateral organ created to resolve issues affecting all areas of cooperation between the two countries.
The five-day meeting in Nairobi, which ended on Tuesday, indicated that the two sides have agreed to remove barriers that have consistently affected trade, signalling more efficiency of their cross-border businesses.
“On trade, the JCC took note of the progress made by the Joint Trade Committee in addressing 30 out of 64 challenges facing bilateral relations and urged the resolution of the remaining 34 issues before end of December 2021,” a joint dispatch from the meeting said on Tuesday.
The JCC meeting was co-chaired by Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo and her Tanzanian counterpart Liberata Mulamula, while the Joint Trade Committee is chaired by trade ministers from both countries – Kenya’s Betty Maina and Tanzania’s Kitila Mkumbo.
In June, a month after Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu visited Kenya, the Joint Trade Committee identified 60 tariff and non-tariff barriers between the two countries.
Among the 30 resolved immediately included clearing of soft drinks made in their territories, removal of inspection fees on processed products with a standardisation mark, including wheat flour, as well as Tanzania’s entry into the Common Network Area to eliminate roaming fees on received calls.
By last week, officials said there will also be preferential treatment on cement made in their territories; Tanzania will install the Single Window System as Kenya did, to enable faster clearance of goods and harmonise standardisation; and that veterinary products will be valid for export up to 30 days. A permanent committee was also established to monitor implementation of decisions made.
“The meeting reviewed progress made in implementing decisions from previous bilateral meetings and underscored the importance of ensuring they comply with the commitments made between the two countries,” the ministers said in a communique after a four-day meeting in Arusha then.
On Tuesday, the countries’ top diplomats said they will use the next four months to resolve the remaining crucial areas, including harmonising health certification especially in times of Covid-19. Both countries have improved policies on Covid-19, especially after the death of Tanzania’s former president John Pombe Magufuli who had claimed Covid-19 had been eliminated in the country.
Since Samia’s visit to Kenya, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam have since established a joint mechanism for dealing with Covid-19 including on testing and recognition of lab results as well as vaccination.
“I am also glad that Minister and Cabinet Secretary of Health met here in Kenya and agreed on modalities of handling the Covid-19 test as directed by our Principals,” Ms Mulamula said in a speech.
Ahead of the self-imposed deadline, the Commission said it will now be meeting at least once every year. The two countries also say they will soon commence the second phase of reaffirming their common border and enhance policing.
The actual timelines will depend on how soon the two sides can allocate money and experts.
Meanwhile, the JCC signed an MoU on Tuesday to guide the demarcation of the common border between the countries. Kenya and Tanzania share an 800k border.
The MoU said they will reaffirm the border “on the basis of existing treaties and recognised practice between both countries.”