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Kenya bows to Tanzania pressure on KQ flights ban dispute

A Kenya Airways plane
A Kenya Airways plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya has added Tanzania to its Covid-19 safe list of countries whose citizens are exempted from a mandatory two-week quarantine, a move seen by analysts as a tactical retreat to protect the market share of its airlines in the neighbouring country.

The decision by Kenya came in the wake of an announcement by RwandAir that it would resume three flights to Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro via Nairobi—hoping to ride on the gap caused by the ban on rival Kenyan airlines since July 31.

A prolonged absence of Kenyan airlines, including Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ, AirKenya Express, Fly540 and Safarilink Aviation, on the Tanzania routes would have handed the fast rising RwandAir an advantage to establish itself as alternative choice to customers in the regional market, long dominated by Kenyan carriers.

The decision by Kenya to add to Tanzania to its Covid-19 safe list, just days after Nairobi vowed not to compromise the safety of its citizens for economic gains, may also be an indication of its attempts to avoid an escalated feud which may have triggered other trade wars.

The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) yesterday confirmed that the ban on Kenyan airlines had been lifted.

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“This is to confirm that the government of Kenya through its circular issued by KCAA on September 15 removed the requirement of 14 days’ mandatory quarantine for all arriving passengers from the United Republic of Tanzania,” TCAA director general Hamza Johari said in a statement.

“In view of that and on a reciprocal basis, Tanzania has now lifted the suspension for all Kenya operators with immediate effect.”

Lifting the ban came as a major relief for KQ which had by yesterday commenced preparations to resume flights to Tanzania

“We shall resume flights as soon as possible. We are preparing for that and we will advise once we have filed our schedule,” KQ chief executive officer Allan Kilavuka said told Business Daily.

Tanzania is a significant destination for KQ which had planned two daily flights to Dar es Salaam and three weekly flights to the resort city of Zanzibar from August 1 when Kenya resumed international flights.

Prior to the ban KQ, which operates its regional hub from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, had a permit to fly 14 times to Dar es Salaam every week, three times to Kilimanjaro and two times to Zanzibar, mostly ferrying tourists and business travellers.

Kenya and Tanzania have in the last four years had bitter fights over work visa, taxes and market access rights for items such as sugar, milk and dairy products. These stand-offs have negatively affected bilateral trade between the two countries, provoking a series of crisis meetings.

including a conference in Arusha from November 12-16 last year to try and thaw the frosty ties.

It was the second such summit following a similar one in May 2019 in which Kenya raised concerns over multiple non-tariff barriers placed on its goods entering Tanzania.

Although the East African Community (EAC) Customs Union protocol requires that partner States of the bloc treat goods manufactured from one another like local products, Tanzania and Kenya have repeatedly feuded over market access.

African countries included on the latest list are Burundi, Comoros, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia, with Mexico and Serbia outside the region.

African countries included on the latest list are Burundi, Comoros, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia, with Mexico and Serbia outside the region.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia had last month said Kenya will not compromise with the health of Kenyans on Tanzania push for a review of the quarantine list.

“We are not going to put commercial interests ahead of health matters. Commercial interests are subordinated to health risks,” Mr Macharia said.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged governments in Africa and Middle East to implement testing as an alternative to quarantine measures when re-opening their economies.

“Mandatory quarantine measures stop people from travelling. We understand that governments’ priority is on protecting the well-being of their citizens. Quarantine destroys livelihoods. Testing is an alternative method that will also save travel and tourism jobs,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, yesterday.

“Testing provides a safe alternative to quarantine and a solution to stop the economic and social devastation being caused by COIVID-19.”

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