Tanzanians have been challenged to aggressively exploit opportunities availed by the East African Common Market instead rather than continuing to complain that they just cannot compete.
The challenge was thrown by Kigoma North lawmaker Zitto Kabwe (Chadema) yesterday when debating budget estimates of the East African Cooperation ministry for fiscal year 2011/2012, which were tabled by Minister Samuel Sitta.
Kabwe, quoting University of Dar es Salaam law don Palamagamba Kabudi, said that Tanzanians were “quick to exhibit their weaknesses and quite shy at boasting about their achievements”
“We should stop lamenting about being at a disadvantage in the Common Market and instead seize the opportunities that it avails us,” he said.
The MP said statistics showed that Tanzania’s economy was the fastest growing in the region and that, unlike in the past; trade with its partners in the East African Community was now registering a surplus on an annual basis.
“It is a fallacy to believe that our country is at a disadvantage in the Common Market. The fact is that we are now actually exporting more to our partners than we import from them,” Zitto said.
He said the country’s immense natural resources, if well managed, would soon make Tanzania’s economy the envy of its partners.
“Tanzania’s natural resources give our country more than a fair advantage relative to the other partners,” he said, adding that the ministry had to work hard to change the people’s mindsets with a view to readying them to engage competitively.
Kabwe’s call was echoed by Kigoma Urban legislator Peter Serukamba (CCM), who said that transit trade alone could make Tanzania’s economy a force to reckon with in the Community if the country modernised its infrastructure.
He called for harmonisation of income taxes in the trading bloc and formulation of investment incentives so as to sell the EAC as a single investment destination.
“An investor would be more attracted to come to the EAC, knowing that it has a larger market of over 120 million consumers than just 40 million for Tanzania alone,” he said.
Mohammed Seif Khatib (Uzini, CCM) called on the ministry to embark on a vigorous marketing of Kiswahili, saying it was very unfortunate that the language was not even one of the EAC’s official languages despite the fact that it was the ‘lingua franca’ in all the Community member countries.
“It is the responsibility of the ministry to promote Kiswahili in the EAC as an institution,” he said.
Said Khatib Haji (Konde, CUF), in his maiden speech in the House, urged the ministry to ensure that Kenyan immigration officials respected Tanzania’s travel documents, including passports.
He said the officials at Shimoni, in Mombasa, very often disregarded travel documents produced by travellers from Zanzibar.
Travellers from Zanzibar are being discriminated against at Shimoni on a regular basis. They even reject their passports,” he said, wondering: “What sort of cooperation is that?”
The National Assembly yesterday endorsed the ministry’s budget estimates totalling 16,411,055,000/-, of which 15,524,760,000/- for development expenditure and 886,295,000/- is for recurrent expenditure.