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Pandemic hurts business at Namanga border post

Kenya and Tanzania introduce measures to reduce and contain the spread of Covid-19, close borders

By Albert Lemomo

Principal Secretary for East African Community Kevit Desai has said that business operations at the Namanga One Stop Border Post have been greatly affected by the outbreak of the infectious coronavirus in Kenya and Tanzania, with both countries losing over Ksh38 billion —Ksh11 billion for Kenya and Ksh27 billion for Tanzania — in lost trade volumes.

“Since the outbreak was reported in Kenya and later in Tanzania, most business operations have significantly reduced due to the pandemic risk that several of the member countries are grappling with. This is due to the measures put in place by these countries in their quest to reduce and contain the spread of Covid-19 by closing their borders, at a time that Kenya-Tanzania relations seemed to be improving, with the two countries transacting at least Ksh38 billion, and the Namanga one stop border post transacting at least Ksh400 million a month,” Desai said.

According to the PS, there is a need to galvanize the entire border post community to sensitize them on the measures to prevent the spread of the disease.“We have had lengthy engagement with all the necessary stakeholders and border officials, traders and the community, and sought a consensus on how all of us are going to educate other people on measures to curb coronavirus as a country and as a region. We are monitoring closely the dynamics of the situation in order to respond adequately,” he said.

Furthermore, the PS has assured small-scale traders that the government will continuously engage their Tanzania counterparts to ensure that the traders will be allowed to undertake their small businesses without harassment. “As a government, we will continue to engage more with the Tanzanian authorities and ensure that the women who sell their beads are not harassed at either side of the border so that they can earn expand their businesses. We are going to put measures to add value to the products and services of small-scale traders, create a market for them, and train them on common protocols of business so that they can benefit,” Desai said.

The Namanga One Stop Border Post has been lauded by traders due to improving service delivery, with trucks now being cleared in less than an hour and the Department of Immigration processing documents in less than five minutes.“It has been a reprieve for us as transporters. Previously, we had to park for hours and at times for days awaiting clearing, which led to delays in delivering goods,” said Isaac Mwakazi, a truck driver.

According to the PS, coordination between the national government, county government and Tanzania poses a great opportunity to increase volumes of trade, up to Ksh1billion from the current Ksh400 million a month.“Despite the outbreak, we are consistently engaging at all levels to find permanent solutions with respect to expanding the border post and enhancing trade so that we improve our economy, improve the life of the community, and become prosperous as the East African Community,” Desai said.

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