I recently attended the Kenya Model United Nations Conference, where I represented Albania in the Economics and Finance Committee also known as committee two of the UN General Assembly. That being said I feel it is my responsibility to bring to your attention an interesting economic dispute between Kenya and her East Africa neighbor Tanzania. Let’s start from the beginning shall we.
It all began back in the 1960s when the two neighboring states gained their independence from Great Britain. Upon gaining independence, the two nations adopted differing economic policy. While Kenya under President Jomo Kenyatta, (who interestingly was the father of the current president), opting for a more capitalist approach, Tanzania opted for a socialist or communist approach. The results of the two economic policies were distinct to say the least. The so called “Ujamaa” (Swahili for togetherness) policy adopted by Tanzania’s founding president Mwalimu (Swahili for teacher) Julius Nyerere failed disastrously. In his defence though, President Nyerere left a socially cohesive country. On the other hand Kenya’s free market approach made it the biggest non-mineral economy in sub-Saharan Africa. However, this approach despite its successes did not come without a price, notably high levels of income inequality.
In 1967 the governments of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania entered in to a treaty that established the East African Community. Unfortunately, due to disagreements between the three neighbors notably disagreements between Tanzania and Uganda over Tanzania’s involvement in the toppling of the dictatorship government of Idi Amin, the Community collapsed in 1977.
The East Africa Community was re-established in 1993. Today, the community is comprised of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan. In recent times, the two economic powerhouses of East Africa have been lodged in a bitter battle of economic supremacy. It cannot be said when this battle for economic supremacy began, however, it can be attributed to a number of factors.
Number one is the apparent marginalization of Tanzania by other East African nations. In 2011, the governments of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, entered in to an agreement that would see them build a railway line from Kenya’s port city of Lamu all the way to Juba (the Capital city of South Sudan). This agreement also included the construction of an oil pipeline from South Sudan to the port town of Mombasa. To add on to this the agreement also entailed the construction of a mega highway connecting the four countries. Interestingly, Tanzania was conspicuously left out of the agreement.
Once completed the billion dollar project, whose construction is underway, will be a big blow to Tanzania, which is currently in the process of constructing a new port. The new port was to rival Kenya’s port in Mombasa. Due to years of mismanagement and corruption, the Mombasa port had become inefficient and Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan had expressed their dissatisfaction of the port facility. Tanzania’a Bagamoyo port was going to be the solution that would render the port of Mombasa in Kenya redundant. Sensing danger, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya went on a charm offensive and managed to win back the trust of the other four members of the community, something that the Kikwete administration did not like.
To further worsen the situation, Tanzania planned to construct a highway that would cut through the Serengeti National Park. The plan was opposed by environmentalist’s world wide. To better understand the situation, we have to consider the significance of Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s tourism economy. The Serengeti National Park is connected to the Maasai Mara National park in Kenya and every year herds of zebras and wildebeests migrate from Maasai Mara to Serengeti and vise versa. This great migration attracts thousands of tourists to Kenya and was even added on the list of the wonders of the world
The construction of the highway would have affected the migration, which is one of Kenya’s major tourist attractions, and thus would have meant a dent on Kenya’s economy.
Currently, both nations are not allowing tour vans from each other in their territory. Thus, tour vans from Tanzania are not allowed in the Maasai Mara and the same goes for Kenyan tour vans in the Serengeti. Additionally, Tanzania has cut down weekly flights from Kenya from 42 to 14. The Parliament of Tanzania recently passed a Law that bars foreigners from holding jobs that native Tanzanians are capable of doing.
Economists opine that Kenya is set to loose the most from the deteriorating relations as in 2013, Tanzania imported goods worth 40 billion shillings from Kenya.This ongoing economic row is one worth debating.