Towards the end of this month, Industry and Trade minister Dr Abdallah Kigoda is scheduled to lead a small and medium enterprises (SMEs) trade mission to South Sudan.
The delegation will be out to explore trade and investment opportunities available in the world’s newest market and, equally importantly, to showcase what Tanzania can offer in terms of trade, industry and services to the African nation born a short four months ago.
There are many advantages of trading with other nations, most especially so in the form of economic exchanges when it comes to being into contact with new markets like South Sudan.
First, the newly independent nation is for all practical purposes a virgin market badly in need of all manner of supplies to build its base. The boon for the outside world is that the expansive country is that it has few players of its own and therefore competition from within is minimal.
But secondly, as explained by a senior official overseeing bilateral programmes in the Tanzanian ministry’s Directorate of Trade Integration, the problem with other ‘upper markets’ such as the European Union, the United States and Asia is that they are governed by strict rules particularly on sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
In the circumstances, nascent SMEs like the ones found in Tanzania that are not linked to product supply chains find it especially difficult to weather stiff competition.
It is chiefly because of this that the South Sudan market is advantageous to Tanzanian SMEs as competition can easily be handled even by small or young enterprises.
South Sudan has also another intrinsic advantage for Tanzanian SMEs if considered side by side with most other markets in that it is, if you will, a second-door neighbour.
Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique share borders with Tanzania, but South Sudan is not too far away.
The prevalence of a promising market of this nature ought to be put to good use not merely because of geographical proximity but also because of the potential economies of scale.
South Sudan can also do Tanzanian small businesses another good in that the peoples of these two nations have more or less the same cultures and lifestyles. The food eaten in Tanzanian would very likely be much the same as is eaten in South Sudan. So here there is likelihood for both markets to depend heavily on each other.
This will be the first time for Tanzania to send a business delegation to South Sudan. Other countries like Kenya and Uganda have already made inroads there.
But it is not too late in the day for Tanzania to benefit from business and other links with South Sudan. What matters most is for our enterprises to come up with reliable and capable product supply chains – organisations, people, technology, activities, information and resources to be involved in moving products or services from suppliers to consumers and back.
But there are many other markets in our part of the world that could benefit our SMEs and which we need to associate ourselves with more: Somalia, DR Congo, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, etc. The ball is in our court.