Open borders will do more good than harm, say experts

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to open up Kenyan borders for East Africans will have a more positive than negative impact, players in various sectors have said.

The players see the president’s move as “a soft and direct” way of attracting investments, talent and knowledge from Kenya’s East African neighbours.

The private sector has welcomed the directive saying the gains that will accrue from open borders will be more than the negative effects of “a closed society”.

Institute of Surveyors of Kenya (ISK) Chairman Stephen Ambani said it had ratified g a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) with their partner associations that was now awaiting the nod from the East Africa heads of State Summit before their members can practice their trade across borders.

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“Coming on the background of big regional projects, standard gauge railway, roads and the East Africa Electricity Pool, it is important that cross-border practice be allowed to promote inter-regional trade,”

 Mr Ambani  said.

Lawyers have also gone ahead with similar plans with the East Africa Law Society established but protectionist tendencies adopted by member states have made cross-border legal practice a mirage.

The African Bar Association representative Lawyer Nicholas Sumba, however, says opening the window for East African lawyers to practice in Kenya risks flooding the local market.

Research scientist Anthony Wanjohi said Mr Kenyatta’s directive allowing East Africans to own land in Kenya should be relooked at to avert a scramble for prime properties in urban centres which risks pushing up land prices.

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He also cautioned that Kenya should now be extra vigilant to ward off terrorists and drug traffickers.

“Kenya has bitten the bullet that requires it to come up with better surveillance measures to curb terrorism and drug cells from setting up base in Kenya,”

 he said.

In 2016, acting Interior Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i kicked out 30 foreigners who peddled drugs while posing as students in local universities.

Analysts also say the President’s directive could help grow Kenya’s trade volumes as Ugandans and Tanzanians could easily travel to Kenya and directly procure goods and services.

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Between 2011 and 2015, Kenya’s total exports to Uganda amounted to Sh328 billion, followed by Tanzania at Sh198 billion, Rwanda Sh74 billion and Burundi Sh30.3 billion.

Mr Wanjohi added that the President’s directive needs to be urgently followed by policy statements to breathe life into it.

Ugandans, Kenyans and Rwandese national have for years enjoyed a seamless interaction after they did away with work permits and visas allowing free movement of people, capital and goods across their borders.

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