TANZANIA SCRAPS VEHICLE ENTRY FEE AT BORDERS WITH KENYA
Faced with massive pressure by the four other East African Community member states during a recent ministerial meeting in Mombasa and the prospect of a diplomatic fallout at the head of state summit last weekend has Tanzania rushed to reassure in particular Kenya that they would now remove the controversial US Dollars 200 charge per vehicle entering Tanzania and also remove the need for work permits for East African citizens when entering on the country on business.
The fallout in the media was swift and commentaries across the region full of dripping acid over the two faced approach Tanzania took, when first one Minister made reconciliatory comments after the matter was first raised on bilateral level only to be hung out to dry by a cabinet colleague who last week insisted the charges would remain until at least 2015. That latest slap in Kenyas face, as it was perceived across the entire region, was however seemingly the last nail in that coffin as the potential fallout for Tanzania in East Africa could have been major, with the other member states reportedly siding with Kenya and talk of unspecified countermeasures echoing in the corridors of the meetings before propelling Tanzania into removing the unilaterally applied non tariff barriers.
It now remains to be seen if this was merely another tactic to appease the community partners or if indeed on Monday the directive will go out to stop forthwith the collection of the fees and stop demanding work permits for business people coming from the region.
During the weekend summit in Nairobi it was also decided that Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi would remove all so called road blocks where trucks and busses have previously been inspected while Kenya committed to reduce such check points along the central transit corridor from a staggering 36 to only 5, with those also under operational review in order to make free trade and transport across East Africa a faster reality. In this context it is also important to notice that Tanzania dropped another contentious obstacle and joined the partner states to fully recognize the certificate of origin each EAC country issues to certify that goods shipped meet the requirements of locally manufactured input criteria to qualify for the zero rated tariffs.
Other sectors however were swift to demand equal treatment, in particular the aviation industry asking to remove the restrictive policies hitherto employed against airlines registered in other EAC member states and wishing to fly into Tanzania while tourism stakeholders from the wider region expressed their hope that the border issue between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara at Bologonja / Sand River and the uneconomical restrictions on safari tourists having to change vehicles at the borders with Tanzania would also be resolved very soon.
Questions to EAC officials about the time frame for a common tourist Visa were not answered over the weekend, leaving that question still wide open. Watch this space.