Confusion over Kenya 25pc tariff sparks Comesa trade row


A cargo ship. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A lobby has accused Kenya of imposing tariffs of up to 25 percent on goods from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), sparking a fierce trade dispute with some of Africa's biggest economies in the regional trading bloc.

The Comesa Business Council, a private sector lobby accused Kenya of flouting Comesa guidelines.

"On the 8th of September 2020, the Comesa business community awoke to a situation where non preferential customs duties were applied on Comesa origin goods by Kenyan customs authorities," said the lobby in a statement.

"CBC has received complaints from businesses in several Comesa countries highlighting that their products are stuck at the various ports of entry in Kenya."

The lobby said several countries had lodged complaints against Kenya amid cancellation of pre-existing orders due to the measures imposed by Nairobi.

The protests came as the Egyptian government was reported to have written to Kenya protesting the decision to impose a 25 percent tariff on Egyptian exports in violation of the Comesa free trade agreement.

On Friday, Kenya remained guarded on the trade dispute, maintaining it had not imposed any tariffs on goods from Comesa members.

"We have not done so," Trade and Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina told the Business Daily. "There was some confusion caused by a letter from the East Africa Community. It has since been corrected."

The Egyptian government, according to local media in Cairo, was understood to be waiting for a clarification so it can put a reciprocal plan to mitigate the impact of the decision on its exporters.

CBC urged Kenya to speedily resolve the matter noting that Kenya’s decision had also affected non- Comesa countries who have enjoyed the preferential treatment given by the EAC .

Kenya imported and exported $2 billion and $2.1 billion goods, respectively from the bloc and to the rest of Africa in 2018.