The country has been getting raw deal.
Kenya does not really reap the fruits of East Africa Community, it would appear.
The bloc made up of five nations has been on the brink of open derision with Kenya being on the receiving end.
The community was supposed to have the members ease trade and other benefits among them. A closer look at it shows that Kenya, despite bending backwards to accommodate others, has been receiving a raw deal in return.
The latest in a string of bad treatment in the Community is by Tanzania who has refused to sign the crucial Economic Partnership Agreement.
Under the trade deal, the European Union (EU) would be granted unlimited market access to Kenya and the region for the next two and half decades. The East African nations will also enjoy the exemption from the 8 -12 per cent taxes while selling goods to the EU market. Should the deal flop, these taxes will hurt Kenyan exports by making them uncompetitive.
A failure will also hurt one of Kenya’s engines of economic growth; agriculture. Close to 90 per cent of the country’s exports to the EU are agricultural, agro-processed and manufactured products.
The scenario might also spell doom to more than 600,000 workers, mainly on the flower farms and fresh foods producers.
Kenya is the only country among the East African partners who does not enjoy the least developed country status hence has to depend on the agreement or risk the preferential treatment in the lucrative EU market. Least developed countries access the market without the need for a special agreement. According to news reports, Tanzania officials cited Brexit as the reason for not signing.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection, Phyllis Kandie, said the deal would still be signed.
“The deadline for signing the agreement is October 1, 2016. We are still within the deadline and we are talking with a view of having all partner states sign before then,” she said.
But Kenya’s bad treatment in the hands of Tanzania is not a new phenomenon. In early 2015, tourist operators from both countries were caught up in supremacy wars after Kenya had denied Tanzania tour operators access to Kenya towns. While Tanzanians enjoyed unfettered access to Kenyan towns, Tanzania had refused Kenyans past the borders.
Tanzania has also refused to join the single East Africa Visa that allows tourists coming to the region to visit all sites of their choice without unnecessary paperwork in each country.
Kenya Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer Jacinta Nzioka-Mbithi noted that the East Africa Tourism Visa protocol had been agreed on by member states in East Africa several years ago.
“While it will be great for all EAC members to be part of the visa protocol in order to make joint marketing more effective, a lot has already been achieved with Rwanda and Uganda providing a diversified offering to the international traveller,” she said.
Mrs Mbithi said the need for several destination packages is growing hence joint promotions for EA as one destination.
“Being the regional hub, many tourists come into the region through Kenya, hence Kenya will always benefit. However, more can be achieved through repositioning Kenya in the region and ensuring fair stake by all members. The big brother is not applicable anymore as our neighbours are now grown up,” she said.
Tanzania tends to lean towards Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa in its dealing giving EAC its back.
CS Kandie sought to downplay the underlying issues within the community.
“There are challenges of this nature that afflict any regional economic bloc but generally the EAC is doing well with a growth rate of 6 per cent,” she said.
But perhaps the biggest betrayal is the Oil Pipeline deal when Uganda overlooked the more viable root through Kenya and opted for Tanzania.
Kenya was left reeling after a proposed Hoima-Turkana to Lamu and opted for Hoima-Tanga route.
“As the biggest regional economy we have financial institutions like Kenya Commercial and Equity Banks and other businesses well established in all these countries. Kenya has a lot more to lose were the community to collapse,” said a government official who sought anonymity.
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