Kenya’s imports from Tanzania doubled in 11 months to November last year as trade between the two countries continues to normalise after years of dispute.
The latest data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) shows that imports from Tanzania grew to Sh50.1 billion from Sh24 billion a year earlier.
The growth pushed the country to a record Sh9.77 billion deficit as exports grew at a slower pace (44 percent) to Sh40.39 billion.
Kenya enjoyed a Sh3.9 billion trade surplus against Tanzania in 2020 when exports stood at Sh28 billion and the import bill was recorded at Sh24.198, according to CBK data.
Kenya mainly imports cereals, wood, and edible vegetables from Tanzania and it exports pharmaceutical products, plastics, iron, and steel to the neighbouring state.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Tanzanian counterpart, Samia Suluhu ended persistent strained trade relations between the two largest economies in the six-nation East African Community (EAC) bloc which have, for years, hindered smooth flow of goods and services.
The Tanzanian president’s visit to Nairobi — which, among others, saw the two countries sign a deal to build a gas pipeline from Dar es Salaam to Mombasa — touched off a series of joint trade meetings to flatten barriers to the flow of goods.
Before Ms Suluhu’s visit, Kenya had imposed a ban on imports of maize from Tanzania citing high levels of aflatoxin.
However, the trade impasse on maize imports from Tanzania was resolved after Ms Suluhu came to Nairobi, a move that saw imports jump more than sixfold to 118,329 bags in May after a deal to lift a ban that had been put in place was reached.
Kenyan manufacturers had in recent years protested “discriminative” duties and non-tariff barriers such as double inspection of goods for standards by Tanzania which had made supplies such as meat, milk, and related products to the neighbouring country uncompetitive.
The protectionist fees, Kenyan manufacturers argued, was against the EAC Common Market Protocol, which requires member states to open up borders to facilitate free movement of goods, labour, services as well as capital.