The value of Kenya’s exports to key East African Community’s markets hit a three-year high in first eight months of 2019, official data shows, partly helped by Nairobi’s efforts to ease trade tensions with Tanzania.
Earnings from goods sold to Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda stood at Sh77.32 billion in the January-August period, fresh data from the Central Bank of Kenya indicates, a 5.98 percent growth over Sh72.99 billion in similar period in 2018.
Kenyan factories have in recent years struggled to grow exports in regional markets largely due to tariff and non-tariff barriers fuelled by mistrust and unresolved trade disputes, particularly with Tanzania and, in some isolated cases, Uganda.
Manufacturers have also blamed multiple fees and levies, relatively high power charges and inefficiencies at factories for piling up the cost of production, making locally-made goods expensive in regional markets.
Ministries of Trade and EAC Affairs have been reaching out to their counterparts in Tanzania and Uganda with a view to finding a long-lasting solution to on-and-off disputes that usually hit Kenyan products such as confectionery and cement.
“The Kenyan team has done a very commendable job in working with the EAC secretariat in bringing both tariff and non-tariff barriers down, and we are also seeing very concerted efforts also on the part of Tanzania to bring these barriers down,” said Sachen Gudka, the chairman of Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM).
“We now see that trade is coming in true spirit of an economic community. There’s a definite progress, although there will always be teething problems on some of emerging issues. But for now the trend and direction is good and we are grateful for the intervention by Kenya.”
President Uhuru Kenyatta met his Tanzanian counterpart, John Magufuli, in July to primarily lobby the southern neighbour to back Kenya’s bid for a seat at the UN Security Council, but talks to improve trade ties also featured.
Kenya’s High Commissioner to Tanzania Dan Kazungu said in August talks between the countries had helped eliminate 25 of the 37 tariff and non-tariff barriers (15 on Kenya side and 22 on Tanzania’s) by April.
Order book from Tanzania expanded Sh2.28 billion, or 8.41 percent, to nearly Sh21.54 billion in the eight-month period through August, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data shows.