A casual observation of the brisk goings on at the border crossing together with conversations with the Motorcycle Transporters, sort of confirms this speculation that Tanzanian traders dominate the Taveta open market.
It is therefore not surprising that,the Taveta Town Council has invested in a multi-million shilling market to tap into and rake in the ready cash, while the ever enterprising and new entrant into Tanzanian banking market, Equity Bank Group, has spotted the opportunity and is building a bank right opposite the market to tap into the expected cash largesse.
There is a setback though on the Kenyan side where the market and the bank are fast changing the skyline. The roads are in a deplorable state of the Kenyan side compared to the Tanzanian side and then there is the small matter of free movement of persons and goods.Nonetheless, these setbacks are not stopping people like Yussuf Hussein. The 28 year old businessman is immensely happy with the way governments on both side (Tanzania and Kenya), have remained laid back and thus created an environment in which trade is determined by the ingenuity of the trader.
For the cost of a few thousand Tanzanian shillings Hussein happily performs the role of tour guide on the 12km stretch of road sandwiching the border crossing point between Holili (Tanzania) and Taveta(Kenya) and does even better with the narration of the trade challenges between the two sister countries."Over there is where Tanga Cement are excavating for the the raw material they use to make Simba Cement," he says.
"Beyond their is Lake Chale is where, when the immigration and customs officials become nasty, we ride round the shore of the lake using the longer route to get back and forth into Tanzania and Kenya," says Husein.In answer to a question of his nationality Hussein shrugs and smiles, "for your purpose, am Tanzanian when I go to Kenya, I have an ID card, when I am in Tanzania I have my village chairman's letter from Himo. You see I am a child of two worlds, my father is from Himo, my mother is from Taveta.
Did I choose to belong either way, hell no. I am happy belonging both ways," says Hussein, as he rides along the rough patch that is the Taveta Airstrip.
"Mr Basil Criticos usually lands here and Prime Minister Raila Odinga landed here to open the Immigration office," says Hussein whose knowledge of the politics on both sides of the border is remarkable. Mr Criticos is Kenyan of Greek descent and a large scale land owner who does Sisal Farming among others and is a former MP who has had his woes with the powers that be in Kenya over land.
It is obvious that trade is vibrant despite and inspite of the challenges. Boda Boda riders are the means of transport for the small business people who buy household needs and sell across the border.However, even the Boda Boda riders face challenges. They are harassed & get arrested for the numerous licences which both countries require but whose implementation is based a lot more on whims than on known laid down regulations.
"We have to know what is right and wrong but somehow the border agencies work as if they have no recognition of the other side's government. I bought this Motor Cycle in Kenya. Two days later I was arrested and it was impounded purportedly for having no number plate yet I had a letter from the shop where I bought it indicating the dues had been paid to KRA and the license would come in two weeks," says Hussein.
Therein lies the challenge that regional integration is working to surmount, that of networking, and co-operation between Governments and agencies. Early this year, two ministers in charge of East African Affairs, Hon. Samuel Sitta of Tanzania and Hon. Musa Sirma of Kenya met in Namanga to discuss progress made between the two countries in fast-tracking bilateral issues that may be in the way of regional integration.
It is worthy-noting that the meeting of the two East African Affairs meeting coupled with their inspection of the cross-border activities came at the right time, a time when, there has been numerous complaints that there exists a gap between what the governments are doing and saying at Heads of States and Ministers as well as technocrats meeting but the bureaucracies are stuck in a time-warp.
Clearly the inspection and bilateral meeting, followed by a visit by the Tanzanian Minister for Public Works John Pombe Magufuli in which the Minister asked those who have been compensated to give way for building of the One Stop Border Post, sets the stage for Tanzania and Kenya to walk the talk of integration by providing solutions beyond communiques.
The One Stop Border post project is supported by the World Bank, Jica and TradeMark East Africa, the latter who are financing us $85m over the next 4 years in supporting regional integration programmes in Tanzania.The meeting between the two minsters was followed by a communique signed by both parties on 22nd February 2012 and whose main thrust was removal of all existing non tariff trade barriers between partner nations and encouraging that states do not legislate or apply measures that impact or discriminate against the same or like products.
The other milestones that the bilateral ministers meeting agreed and which will impact positively on integration and similarly answer the fears of traders like Hussein include:
. To establish market places on both sides of the border posts in order to reduce barriers to trade and enhance relations.
. District commissioners to establish joint border committees at ward level.
. To explore the possibility of delegating issuance of temporary travel permits to district committees.
. To hasten movement of goods especially food items , maize and livestock by quick issuance of sanitary and phytosanitary certificates.
. To stop charges on trucks ferrying food items and other goods by local authorities.
. To eliminate unnecessary tariff barriers at the border post
. To enhance relations between local authorities in both countries and ensure, their full participation in integration process.
. To enhance sensitization at grassroots levels.
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