Tanzania tips balance of trade in its favour under Samia leadership

Saturday September 04 2021
A Kenyan trader

A Kenyan trader sells oranges imported from Tanzania. The country’s exports to Kenya reached almost $13 million for the first time in decades. PHOTO| FILE


Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu has, over the past week, embarked on a promotion drive to attract investors and visitors to the country in efforts to revive the economy, amid positive sentiment that has recently tipped the balance of trade in favour of Dar es Salaam.

Terming herself a tour guide, President Samia has been taking a team of American filmmakers on a tour of the country’s major investment and tourism sites, setting the stage for what is billed as a high-profile international promotion that is expected to bring in the much-needed foreign investments and tourists. The US filmmakers will make a documentary titled Royal Tour, which she said will be launched in the US market and shown worldwide to market Tanzania.

“What I am doing is to promote Tanzania internationally. We are going to film attraction sites,” she said last week on Wednesday in Tegeta, in Dar es Salaam, while on the way to Bagamoyo, in the Coast Region.

Filming of the Royal Tour began on August 28 in Zanzibar, where the president had gone on an official visit. It will showcase various tourism, investments, arts and culture attractions in Tanzania.

The president’s diplomatic and trade charm offensive has already begun bearing fruit.

Data from the region’s central banks shows that East Africa’s largest economy, Kenya, is losing ground to Tanzania, in a turn of tables by Dodoma, as political temperatures rise in Nairobi ahead of next year’s general election.


The shift in trade flow within the East African Community signals Tanzania’s slow but sure growth after years of languishing in Kenya's shadow. Observers say the tide may be irreversible, especially if Dodoma attracts the requisite funding for its big-ticket projects in infrastructure, energy, agribusiness and information and communication technology.

Tanzania’s changing fortunes are coming at a time when Kenya and Uganda are reporting lower figures in their bilateral trade over the past six months, with the credit going to President Samia’s efforts to address tariff and non-tariff barriers since assuming office in March.

According to the latest trade statistics, Kenya’s imports from Tanzania, comprising mainly cereals, wood and edible vegetables, grew by 70 percent to $159.48 million in the six months to June, compared with the corresponding period in 2020.

Although Kenya's exports to Tanzania — pharmaceutical products, plastics, iron, and steel — went up 21.39 percent to a five-year high of $146 million, they were eclipsed by Tanzanian exports by almost $13 million for the first time in decades. But exports of goods increased by 10 percent to $6,457.9 million, owing to good performance of non-traditional exports.

The value of non-traditional exports rose to $5,567.8 million from $4,574.9 million, with a significant increase registered in exports of gold, manufactured goods, horticultural products and other exports.

“Gold exports, which accounted for 54.4 percent of total non-traditional exports, increased by $437.5 million to $3,028.8 million, the highest level of earnings ever reached,” said a Bank of Tanzania report.

This was attributed to an increase in gold prices in the world market and ongoing government initiatives to revamp the mining sector.

“The value of manufactured goods increased by 36.2 percent to $1.09 billion, while horticultural products increasing to $324.6 million compared with $194.6 million in the similar period of 2020,” said the report, “During the period, other exports surged by 73 percent to $665.5 million, emanating from a significant increase in exports of rice and beans to neighbouring countries.”

The Bank of Tanzania reports that food supply in the country has been steady since the beginning of the 2020/2021 fiscal year as indicated by food stocks held by the National Food Reserve Agency. Inflation remained low and within the benchmarks set at both the national and regional levels, according to the Bank of Tanzania July report.

Uganda reported that imports from Tanzania went up by over 25 percent, attributed to the surge in gold sales.

According to the East Africa Cross-border Trade Bulletin for July, Tanzania is feeding the region. After the resolution of the trade tiff between Nairobi and Dodoma following President Samia’s visit in May, maize exports to Kenya went up 25 percent.

Kenya is still grappling with a comeback strategy.

Johnson Weru, Principal Secretary, State Department for Trade and Enterprise Development, said a planned meeting between Tanzanian and Kenyan officials later this month is expected to finalise the balance of trade issues.

There has been a 179 percent spike in exports from Tanzania to Kenya in the past quarter.

John Bosco Kalisa, CEO of the East African Business Council, has acknowledged that the business environment in the region has improved.