In historic address to Kenya’s bicameral sitting of Parliament, Tanzania President Samia Suluhu set the pace, resetting the seemingly on and off trade and cultural ties between the two neighboring East African nations.
President Suluhu, who’s the first woman to lead a nation in East Africa, was making her second foreign tour since taking over the mantle of leadership from John Joseph Pombe Magufuli, who died in March from heart attack.
In early April, President Suluhu oversaw the signing of a deal between Uganda and Tanzania oil firms, Total and CNOOC, setting forth the construction of a $3.5 billion crude pipeline to evacuate crude oil from western Uganda fields to global buyers during her inaugural foreign trip.
The visiting Head of State hailed strong historical ties between Kenya and Tanzania, saying the sister nations hinge on each other for their economic prosperity, while calling out on the people who could be tempted to fan divisions between citizens of the two countries.
While fondly referring to Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta as brother, President Suluhu extended an open invitation to Kenyan investors to enter Tanzania, saying her meeting with her counterpart had resolved to smoothen all barriers to bilateral trade.
President Suluhu’s visit to Kenya also saw an ongoing ban on importation of maize from Tanzania collapse almost immediately.
“On the maize that is stuck at the border I have given you (Minister for Agriculture Peter Munya) two weeks to ensure that the stock is cleared,” said President Kenyatta during a joint session of Kenya and Tanzanian business community.
In March, Kenya enforced a freeze on maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania citing high levels of cancer-causing aflatoxin on imported grain.
At the moment, Kenyan investors with an eye for opportunities in Tanzania have given rise to over 50,000 jobs from an investment portfolio of about $1.7 billion. On the other hand, Tanzania companies in Kenya have helped create nearly 3,000 jobs.
On connectivity and shared infrastructure between the two nations, President Suluhu gave a list of cross-border investments that Kenya and Tanzania officials are working on, including the set-up of One Stop Border Posts, roads, electricity transmission lines and a natural gas pipeline between the Port cities of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa.
“We also signed a gas pipeline deal today (May 4, 2021), which will transport gas between the coastal towns of Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania,” said President Suluhu.
The project will cost KES121 billion ($1.1 billion) and cover about 600 kilometers of the neighboring countries’ expansive coastline.
The Tanzanian leader also spoke about the raging global pandemic, Covid-19 disease, saying that her country was not an exception to the heavy toll on lives and economic fallout while assuring that Tanzania will continue working closely with her neighbours in managing the infection.
“Coronavirus has made us mask up. It is a common enemy and we have put down measures to contain the spread. We, Tanzanians, are not an island and we are part of the international community,” she reiterated.
President Suluhu urged Parliament to nurture the good affiliation in culture and trade between the two countries, while telling MPs that she was visiting Kenya to strengthen existing ties.
Her Excellency Samia Suluhu said her visit had achieved great results, and informed MPs that she had invited President Kenyatta to be the Chief Guest during celebrations to mark Tanzania’s 60th anniversary in December, later this year.