Why Tanzania banned three Kenyan airlines


The decision has angered Tanzanian authorities who retaliated by blocking AirKenya Express, Fly540 and Safarilink Aviation from flying to the country. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Tanzania has banned three more Kenyan airlines from its market as a tit-for-tat trade war between the two countries escalated after Nairobi Tuesday once again excluded Tanzanians among travellers exempted from mandatory quarantine.

The latest blockade came after Nairobi for the second time retained Tanzania on the red list of nations with high risk in coronavirus cases — a position that means travellers from the neighbouring country will continue facing a mandatory two-week quarantine to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The decision has angered Tanzanian authorities who retaliated by blocking AirKenya Express, Fly540 and Safarilink Aviation from flying to destinations in the country.

They join the national carrier, Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ, which has remained banned from flying into Dar es Salaam for close to one month now.

“The basis of the decision to nullify our approval for the three Kenyan airlines is the ongoing dispute between the two countries,” Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) director general Hamza Johari confirmed in an interview with a Business Daily correspondent in Dar es Salaam.

Tanzania is a critical destination for Kenya Airways and the airline had planned two daily flights to Dar and three weekly flights to the resort city of Zanzibar from August 1 when Kenya resumed international flights.

Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) on July 30 cancelled plans to allow Kenya Airways to resume flights, citing the decision by Nairobi to exclude Tanzania from the list of countries whose nationals would be allowed entry under revised coronavirus restrictions.

Tanzania has gone silent on Kenya over resumption of Kenya Airways flights, more than 27 days after the government announced it has struck a deal with Dar.

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 every week, three times to Kilimanjaro and two times to Zanzibar, mostly ferrying tourists and business travellers.

Nairobi, however, stood its ground, saying it would not compromise the health of its citizens by putting commercial interests first.

“We are not going to put commercial interests ahead of health matters. Commercial interests are subordinate to health risks,” Transport secretary James Macharia said last month.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director-general Gilbert Kibe said talks were ongoing to allow resumption of KQ flights to Zanzibar and Dar.

Prior to the ban on Kenya Airways flights, Kenya and Tanzania had been involved in retaliatory border blockades which affected thousands of truckers and businesses.

Kenya’s latest Covid-19 red-list is likely to heighten the stand-off with its neighbour — possibly leading to more trade wars between them.

“Some countries are allowed to enter Kenya without the same condition despite having a very high rate of Covid-19 infections,” Mr Johari said.

Tanzanian authorities have taken a controversially relaxed approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic and began reopening the country two months ago.

President John Magufuli’s refusal to impose lockdowns or physical distancing measures and to halt the release of figures on infections since late April, has made him a regional outlier and caused concern among Tanzania’s neighbours and the World Health Organisation.

Kenya and Tanzania have in the last four years had bruising fights over work visa, taxes and market access rights for items such as sugar, milk and dairy products.

This has affected bilateral trade between the two nations, prompting a series of meetings, including a summit 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’s country like local products, Tanzania and Kenya have repeatedly feuded over market access.

For instance, Tanzania has regularly claimed that Kenyan manufacturers have abused duty-free sugar imports to make sweets and other confectioneries which they later dumped into its market.

Tanzania, therefore, opted to retain 25 per cent import duty on Kenyan-made confectioneries such as chocolate, ice cream, biscuits and sweets, citing use of imported industrial sugar besides continuing to levy 25 per cent duty on Kenya’s edible oils as well as the Tembo cement produced by Bamburi Cement factory that it says are made from imported palm and clinker respectively.

Nairobi retaliated by imposing new tariffs on Tanzania products like flour after the neighbouring country ignored a deal that granted Kenyan-made chocolate, ice cream, biscuits and sweets unrestricted entry into its market.