Monetise improved relations within EAC
President Uhuru Kenyatta was in Uganda yesterday to witness President Yoweri Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony for his sixth term in office.
The short trip to Kampala came days after Tanzanian leader Samia Suluhu Hassan spent two days in Nairobi on a State visit during which trade deals were signed and relations between the two countries straightened.
The positive vibes and good rapport being witnessed among East African Community leaders must be encouraged.
Suluhu’s visit was a boon to Kenya and did more to ease trade and investment tensions than hundreds of meetings in the last decade.
Beyond that, as the region’s most sophisticated economy, Kenya stands to gain if it takes upon itself to deepen economic integration.
The government must, therefore, smell the coffee and ensure the goodwill is shared by all stakeholders in the community to spur trade in the greater EAC.
With a strong population of more than 170 million people and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over $193.7 billion (Sh21 trillion) by 2019, trade among the neighbouring countries has been inhibited mainly by Non-Tariff Barriers.
Kenya must start to leverage its position and create space for more trade with its neighbours which will, in the long run, spur economic growth.
Suluhu was clear on trade promotion and at a high-level business summit, summed up the purpose of her visit as providing a cure for barriers inhibiting trade between countries in the region.
The deals signed included construction of a new gas pipeline between Mombasa and Dar es Salaam at a cost of more than Sh100 billion.
President Kenyatta lifted work permit and visa requirements for Tanzanian investors in a move that further eased tensions that have been simmering over the years.
It is noteworthy that while the private sector has been vibrant, trade between the two neighbours has not thrived to expected levels.
Nairobi must change this narrative, and with President Kenyatta chairing the East African Community Heads of State Summit and Kenyans Peter Mathuki and Nick Nesbitt heading the Secretariat and East African Business Council, respectively, it should be easy to push a compelling regional agenda.
Kenya must immediately start the journey to take advantage of the rising demand for manufactured goods and services and properly tap the EAC market and even the greater Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa market.