Kenya’s exports to Tanzania jumped 43 percent last year reflecting the change in foreign relations since the death of President John Magufuli in March 2021.
Official data shows the value of goods exported to Tanzania grew from Kes31 billion in 2020 to Kes45 billion last year on increased soap shipments.
Kenyan exports to the neighboring had fallen consistently since 2015 when President John Pombe Magufuli, or the Bulldozer came into office.
In 2015 Kenya exported goods worth Sh42.7 billion but the value of exports gradually went south to a low of Sh29.2 billion in 2017 before remaining stagnant.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli had a love-hate relationship that saw the two countries impose non-tariff barriers on trade that culminated in sudden border closure at the height of the pandemic.
“The rise was occasioned by an increase in domestic exports of tea, cut flowers, and coffee to the Democratic Republic of Congo and soap to Tanzania. Exports to Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo exhibited a significant rise from Kes31.8 billion and Kes14.3 billion in 2020 to Kes45.6 billion and Kes24.4 billion, respectively,” the 2022 Economic Survey released by KNBS shows.
While Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Jakaya Kikwete were less antagonistic and minimized competition in the region and their legacy yielded perhaps the best ties between Kenya and Tanzania since independence.
In a speech in Kenya’s Parliament in October 2015, President Kikwete, who was the Foreign Affairs minister when EAC was revived in 2000, said only a fool would reverse the policy.
But in the first year of President Kenyatta’s reign, the Kenyans moved against Tanzania, pulling Uganda and Rwanda into the ill-fated Coalition of the Willing (CoW).
But it took the resolve of President Magufuli, two years later, to dismantle this hegemony.
However, thawing relations at the tail end of Mr Magufuli presidency and the warming up of Tanzania’s new president Samia Suluhu has seen Kenya’s exports expand.
President Suluhu on her first trip to Nairobi oversaw the signing of a gas pipeline deal from Dar es Salaam to Mombasa in what the two countries’ leaders said was part of a long-term project to share energy resources.
At a joint press conference in Nairobi, Tanzania’s Suluhu and Kenya’s Kenyatta said they had agreed to build more interconnecting infrastructure, starting with a gas pipeline and roads.