OPINION : An opportunity for Tanzania, Kenya to resolve differences once and for all

©The Citizen

Resumption of Kenya Airways (‘KQ’) flights on the Dar es Salaam route was scheduled to begin yesterday. This is an opportune time – if one were needed – to resolve some long-standing issues between the two neighboring member states of the East African Community, Kenya and Tanzania.

There is talk that Kenyan companies that also have subsidiaries/operations in Tanzania have been applying what is generally perceived as ‘discriminatory employment practices.’

For example, a manager working for a given company in Kenya would be paid a higher salary that one working in the same company’s operations in Tanzania – despite the two having the same qualifications.

I do not have a specific example of this, though. So I will not point an accusing finger at anyone. However, it goes without saying that such malpractice – if it truly exists – does not do such company/companies any good.

Closure by Kenya of the common border against Tanzania was a blow whose full impact may not immediately be discerned, especially by those inclined to chest-thumping, playing to the gallery and other histrionics mostly favoured by wayward politicians.

However, it is entities like Kenya Airways that have been bearing the brunt of the closed skies-cum-national airspace – this time ostensibly on the back of the viral Covid-19 pandemic.

A little background here is important.

In the 1970s when Tanzania’s manufacturing sector was still fledgling, Kenya’s manufacturing – backed by multinationals like East African Industries (now Unilever) – was already something of a manufacturing hub in East and Central Africa.

That was when Tanzania depended on Kenya for such goods as toothpastes to soaps.

Let’s hit the F-F (‘Fast-Forward’) button to recent years, when Tanzania has been making forays into manufacturing and self-sufficiency.

While all this was going on, Kenya’s manufacturing sector was taking it for granted that Tanzania would always be its dumping ground for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs).

In the event, Kenya’s FMCGs sector never saw what was coming – until their proverbial cheese was moved, so to speak.

In the same spirit, the death in 1977 of the East African Airways of the first East African Community (EAC-I: 1967-77) saw to the birth of Kenya Airways which, for years, dominated the Dar es Salaam-Nairobi route – taking the opportunity to charge extortionate fares for very little value in cabin services.

The trouble with having it so good for so long is that complacency kicks in. KQ was no doubt adding value to the tourism and travel trade across East Africa, and there is need to re-evaluate the pricing strategy to encourage Tanzania/Kenya-bound passengers.

Over-charging, ignoring or under-estimating the market and customers who enable you to make good money is definitely NOT the way to go. After all, doing business has markedly been changed by the Covid-19 malady.

We have been taught that, when all is said and done, it is not the profits that matter… Before the closure, Kenya Airways made more than 28 flights a weekly to and from Tanzania.

Tanzania has done right by itself by cutting the flights between the two countries to 14 a week. This should prompt Kenya Airways to revisit and justify its pricing strategies, if it is to remain relevant in a business where RwandAir, Ethiopian and Precision Air are doing flourishing business

Healthy competition is ultimately good for all the parties involved.

It is important for Kenya Airways to remember the fable about feeding the milch cow instead of just milk it until it drops dead – and you draw blood rather than milk.

The future in which Kenyan business entities take Tanzania seriously is here, and those who take this route will no doubt benefit from a win-win situation.

Tanzania has many business travelers who value timely, reasonably charged flight connections to and from wherever in the world they are traveling.

Then there is that small matter of equity.