Several angry Kenyans took to social media to lament unfair trade practices with Tanzania, with some recommending that a wall is built along the border with their neighbour.
Earlier this week, a report was published detailing a raft of trade barriers placed on Kenyan goods being sent to Tanzanian markets, provoking a barrage of Twitter posts from outraged Kenyans using #fairTradeKe.
“We should build a wall along the border with Tanzania! I think this is the best time for Kenyans to wake up to the four agendas. Promote trade and manufacturing within. #fairTradeKe,” Ruth (@Agribusiness 360) tweeted.
Many also criticized the silence from Kenyan authorities as they asserted that Tanzanian traders enjoyed favourable cross-border trade and have an easier time selling to Kenya, while Tanzania makes it hard for Kenyan goods.
Others recommended that Kenyan authorities retaliate by increasing tariffs on Tanzanian goods, arguing that local manufacturers had been prevented from exporting to Tanzanian markets because of high tariffs.
Some claimed that vehicles bearing Kenyan number plates are targeted by police in Tanzania forcing traders to hire Tanzanian cars for smooth transportation. “Hostility within the East African community is metered out to Kenyans mainly by Tanzania. Even if Tanzania is claiming to protect its citizens from better economies, there is no need for violating the rights of Kenyan citizens living in Tanzania,” wrote Victor Mochere.
There have been periodical trade tiffs between the two largest economies in East Africa over sugar and tobacco.
The latest involved Tanzania’s decision to deny Kenya’s confectionery duty-free access to its market last year even after a verification exercise was conducted to determine the source of the industrial sugar used by the manufacturers.
Both Tanzania and Uganda had slapped a 25 percent import duty on the Kenyan goods but Kampala lifted the tariff after the verification mission. Dar es Salaam maintains that the duty-free sugar imported by Kenya in August 2017 still has an impact on locally-manufactured goods. The issue has not been resolved because Tanzania’s request for a second verification was rejected.
The two neighbours are also locked in a tobacco trade war, where Nairobi is protesting Dar es Salaam’s decision to impose 80 percent higher excise duty on cigarette transfers into Tanzania, despite the raw materials being sourced in Kenya.
The East African Community (EAC) Common Market protocol provides for free movement of locally manufactured goods within Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. Its economies might be growing at an unprecedented rate but emerging nationalism and protectionist policies could hurt integration.
Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have recently experienced several trade disputes, with other partner states introducing tariff and non-tariff barriers which hinder trade in the region.
In 2018, the EAC intra-trade stood at only 20 percent as opposed to 46 percent of the Southern African Development Community, and 67 percent in the European Union. Unless the emerging trends are checked, these disagreements could have negative implications in and beyond the regional bloc’s borders.