Kenya and Tanzania are some of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa with 5.8 percent and 7.2 percent growth rates respectively recorded in 2016. Both countries are richly endowed with natural resources and connected to the sea which makes their position strategic as the gateway to the EAC and Central Africa region.
As President Suluhu of Tanzania noted during her state visit, Kenya is a key partner for Tanzania and is the largest source of African Foreign Direct Investment into Tanzania. However, instead of the two states focusing on cooperation to boost trade and regional growth, they continue to compete on historical rivalry that has seen strong barriers imposed against doing business across the borders despite the countries being signatories to the EAC Common Market Protocol (CMP).
A classic example is when Tanzania banned Kenyan airlines from its space in September 2020, in retaliation to Kenya’s decision to put in place strict travel measures for its citizens over Covid-19 concerns. This move caused a significant disturbance to regional air services that lasted over two months, hampering regional tourism, intra-EAC trade and bilateral trade between Kenya and Tanzania; with the travel and trade sectors advocating for a coordinated approach to the resumption of air services in bid to restore steady business and economic rebound.
This “sibling mistrust” was termed as “both unfortunate and disruptive to travel and trade between the two East African Community (EAC) nations” by the Daily Nation in an article published in September 2020. The paper said that “for EAC to sustain effectiveness, there should be trust and political rapport among participating nations, in addition to having diplomatic processes that sort out routine differences when they arise.”
The KATA led initiative to foster increased outbound tourism to Tanzania is a positive step towards curing the perceived and lingering mistrusts between the two countries.
In the wake of the current global Covid-19 pandemic, there have been calls for African countries to focus on intra-African travel to ensure a quicker post-COVID recovery even as international tourism is experiencing a staggered upturn of the tourism sector.
African tourism ministers, in the recently concluded Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council (GTTRC) virtual summit, noted that the global pandemic and its effect on tourism was key learning point for the continent.
Speaking during the event, Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala said, “I’ve discussed with the African Union Commission on investing in security, air connectivity and seamless accessibility. We need to ensure that Africans can easily travel to their neighboring countries with the correct visas.”
Balala’s sentiments amplifies KATA’s initiative in promoting intra-African travel starting with the EAC. In a first of such bilateral travel promotion, KATA signed a partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Rwanda Chamber of Tourism (RCT), the East African Tourism Platform (EATP) and RwandAir (WB) that will see promotion of free flow of business and leisure travel between Rwanda and Kenya. The association is currently planning familiarization trips for its members with talks going on with its Rwanda partners.