President Uhuru Kenyatta and her Tanzanian counterpart Samia Suluhu in talks during Tanzania's maiden state visit to Kenya. The leaders resolved to improve bilateral relations and trade flows between the two countries. [Photo/State House Kenya]
President Uhuru Kenyatta and her Tanzanian counterpart Samia Suluhu in talks during Tanzania's maiden state visit to Kenya. The leaders resolved to improve bilateral relations and trade flows between the two countries. [Photo/State House Kenya]

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday, May 6 announced the scrapping of the requirement of work visa and permits for Tanzanians looking to work or do business in Kenya, setting the stage for more vibrant trade flows between the two countries.

He announced the new policy at a forum attended by, among others, his Tanzanian counterpart President Samia Suluhu and members of the business community from both countries. On her part, Samia emphasized the need for co-operation between the two countries to take them to greater heights, describing it as a necessity.

“The objective is to strengthen our two economies by promoting easy movement of goods and people.

“We would like to see many investors from Tanzania coming to do business in Kenya. And I want to say this, Tanzanian investors are free to come and do business in Kenya. The only thing you will be required to do is to follow the laid down regulations and the laws that are in place,” Uhuru asserted while pushing for fast-tracking of the East African Common Market Protocol.

Samia’s predecessor, the late John Pombe Magufuli’s time in office was marked by a number of trade and diplomacy rows with Kenya. Many analysts have speculated that Samia’s markedly different approach promises to improve trade and relations between Kenya and Tanzania.

What About Us?

At the same time, however, a section of Kenyans have called for reciprocity from Tanzania on work permit policies and the ease of doing business as Kenyans in Tanzania.

“I think it’s good that they’re now co-operating but to be honest, as a Kenyan doing business in Tanzania the operating environment is still very tough. We still pay a lot of permit fees, and you’re often profiled.

“So as much as I appreciate the fact that it will be easier for Tanzanians to do business in Kenya, I wish the authorities also make it easier for Kenyans operating in Tanzania,” Stella Maina, a Nairobi-based clothing store owner who regularly travels to Tanzania and Uganda to pick up new stock, told Business Today.

Stella’s sentiments were shared by a number of Kenyans on social media, questioning if efforts were being made to improve the operating environment for Kenyans working and doing business in other East African countries.

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Will it work this time?

It isn’t the first time President Kenyatta has announced the easing of policies to enable Africans to live, work and invest in Kenya.

At his inauguration for a second term in 2017, he announced to a packed Kasarani Stadium that East African nationals would be exempt from work-permit requirements to work in Kenya.

He further announced a visa-on-arrival policy for all Africans travelling to Kenya, a move that was hailed by diplomats and leaders from across the continent, with many hailing the President for promoting Pan-Africanism.

Implementation of the grand policies, however, has been a different story all-together.

Challenges in implementation have mainly been attributed to national security threats posed by the policies, leading technocrats back to the drawing board.

Uhuru and Samia both alluded to the national security question in their speeches, stating that improved collaboration was needed on all fronts, including among security agencies.

Uhuru insisted that without compromising national security, the move to scrap permit requirements would lead to increased foreign investment, tourism and trade flows.

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