NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan is on a two-day state visit to Kenya aimed at improving trade relations between the two East African neighbors which had deteriorated as a result of her predecessor’s denial of COVID-19.
Hassan has agreed to border measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, a significant departure from the policies of Tanzania‘s previous leader.
Hassan was Tanzania‘s vice president and became the country’s first woman president following the death of John Magufuli in March.
She was welcomed to Kenya by President Uhuru Kenyatta and given a full military parade. The two leaders later signed an agreement to eliminate barriers hindering the smooth flow of trade and people between the two nations.
A team of experts from both countries will coordinate enforcement of cross-border COVID-19 containment protocols, one of the most pronounced non-tariff trade barriers between the countries, according to a statement from Kenyatta’s communications office.
“We have agreed that our health ministers need to sit down and come up with a structured system of testing our people at the border points to allow easy movement of our people so as to do their businesses,” Hassan told the press at State House, the Kenyan president’s offices in Nairobi.
Magufuli was among the world’s most prominent deniers of COVID-19. He claimed last year that three days of national prayer had eradicated COVID-19 from Tanzania and discouraged residents from wearing face masks and getting vaccines.
Magufuli’s COVID-19 denial prompted Kenya to close its border with Tanzania in May last year except for cargo traffic. Kenya imposed stringent testing measures on Tanzanian truck drivers after more than 50 of them tested positive for the virus in a single day.
Tanzania reciprocated by banning all Kenyan trucks from entering the country. The border issue ended after Magufuli and Kenyatta held a phone conversation.
Kenya is the biggest investor in Tanzania and Tanzanian exports to Kenya have been rising over the last ten years, according to Kenyan officials.
In August Tanzania banned four Kenyan airlines from flying into the country in reciprocation for Kenya‘s decision to leave Tanzania off the list of countries whose people will be allowed to travel into Kenya when international flights resumed.
The issue was solved after a month when Kenya included Tanzania in the list of countries whose nationals would be exempted from the two-week mandatory quarantine on arrival.
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