TanzaniaInvest had the pleasure to interview Latifa Khamis, Director General of the Tanzania Trade Development Authority (TanTrade), the government’s agency vested with regulatory, executive, advisory and consultative power to develop and promote both internal and external trade.
Khamis discusses Tantrade’s market research, export capability-building programs, trade portal and policy reform advocacy to improve the nation’s trade competitiveness and highlights opportunities in agro-processing, seafood exports and manufacturing for growth and foreign investment.
She also underscores the government’s commitment to enabling business and invites partners worldwide to explore Tanzania’s immense potential.
TanzaniaInvest: Can you give us an overview of Tantrade’s role and key objectives?
Latifa Khamis: Tantrade serves as Tanzania’s national export promotion agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Our primary mandate is to boost exports of Tanzanian goods and services to regional and global markets.
We undertake several initiatives to support local companies with market access and trade capabilities. This includes researching high-potential export products and target destination markets. We also directly connect exporters to international buyers through programs like outbound trade missions and international trade fairs.
“We undertake several initiatives to support local companies with market access and trade capabilities. This includes researching high-potential export products and target destination markets. We also directly connect exporters to international buyers.”
Here in Tanzania, we host the flagship Sabasaba International Trade Fair to provide a platform for local companies to showcase their products domestically and to foreign visitors. As the national regulator, we issue permits and ensure standards compliance for all trade exhibitions held in the country.
On the policy side, our role involves providing data-driven advice to the government on trade policy reforms needed to facilitate exports given changing global and regional dynamics.
“On the policy side, our role involves providing data-driven advice to the government on trade policy reforms needed to facilitate exports.”
We aim to be at the forefront of shaping an enabling environment where Tanzanian businesses can thrive through trading globally. Beyond promoting trade, we also want to positively project Tanzania’s image worldwide as an attractive sourcing and investment destination.
TanzaniaInvest: What are some of the key challenges or bottlenecks you see that hinder greater volumes of trade?
Latifa Khamis: There are still some outdated regulations and bureaucracy that increase the time and cost of trading for both exporters and importers. As government facilitators, we need to shift mindsets from controlling trade to enabling it.
“There are still some outdated regulations and bureaucracy that increase the time and cost of trading for both exporters and importers. “
Where outdated laws or statutes are constraining commerce, we provide evidence-based advice to authorities on necessary reforms to improve the business climate. Approval procedures for exports and imports also need further streamlining based on private sector feedback.
Internally, mindset change remains an ongoing effort. We want all officials to see their role as trade enablers rather than controllers. There are still instances where personal attitudes or lack of awareness inhibit good customer service delivery to the business community.
Another priority is enhancing our use of modern information and communication technologies to share trade data, updates and intelligence with users. Overall, there is strong will and commitment from the top leadership to keep reducing non-tariff barriers to trade. Our role is to provide data and recommendations to translate this vision into action.
“There is strong will and commitment from the top leadership to keep reducing non-tariff barriers to trade.”
TanzaniaInvest: Can you highlight some of the services, initiatives and platforms Tantrade offers to help Tanzanian companies to access export opportunities?
Latifa Khamis: Our services aim to directly connect local export-ready firms to international markets and buyers. For example, we organize outgoing trade missions to priority target markets like the recent multi-sector mission to DR Congo. These missions create an opportunity for our private sector to visit, exhibit and meet pre-matched buyers in key markets to explore export potentials.
We also facilitate outbound trade fair participation and inbound buyer visits to link suppliers with overseas demand. For instance, we recently brought in a delegation from the Netherlands to meet local horticulture producers and processors.
Our annual export readiness training program provides targeted assistance to SMEs on documentation, standards, packaging, trade finance and other capabilities needed to tap into exports. We also offer specialized workshops focused on enhancing export competitiveness for sectors like horticulture exports to Europe.
“Our annual export readiness training program provides targeted assistance to SMEs on documentation, standards, packaging, trade finance and other capabilities needed to tap into exports.”
The Tantrade Trade Portal serves as a vital information hub on regulations, requirements, tariffs, contacts and procedures for over 200 export and import products. Users can simply search for their product to get a detailed step-by-step guide on exporting, which they otherwise struggle to obtain.
We also have dedicated officers to provide customized advisory to companies on matters like export registrations, trade data, contacts, certificates and more to resolve issues one-on-one. Overall, our goal is to be a true enabler of enterprises seeking to enter or grow through exports.
“The Tantrade Trade Portal serves as a vital information hub on regulations, requirements, tariffs, contacts and procedures for over 200 export and import products.”
There is an urgent need to streamline cross-border trade and implement a true single-window clearance system. When companies take weeks stuck between dozens of offices to simply export some vegetables, it demonstrates the bottlenecks.
Previously, officials that control one part of the process were unaware of the bigger picture challenges traders experienced. The Trade Portal revealed the systemic issues visually in a way that traditional advocacy could not.
This led to ongoing efforts to now establish a unified Tanzania Revenue Authority electronic gateway that will consolidate all documentation, payments and verifications for imports and exports. This will fulfill the ‘One Stop Border Post’ vision and boost trade environment competitiveness.
TanzaniaInvest: Where does Tantrade see the biggest opportunities for Tanzania to drive trade and investment growth?
Latifa Khamis: Starting with trade, agro-processing represents a prime opportunity given Tanzania’s diverse agricultural resources and organic advantage. We are endowed with abundant fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices that can be value-added into exported processed food products.
“We are endowed with abundant fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices that can be value-added into exported processed food products. But we need to attract processing expertise, technologies and infrastructure to harness agro-processing potential.”
For instance, our neighbors import French beans from as far as Europe when Tanzania produces the same quality – this demonstrates potential. But we need to attract processing expertise, technologies and infrastructure to harness agro-processing potential.
Aquaculture or seafood exports is another promising sector, including areas like Nile perch, tuna, seaweed, crabs and more. Here too, investment into modern fishing vessels, storage facilities, processing equipment and skills development can boost production and foreign earnings through seafood exports.
“Aquaculture or seafood exports is another promising sector, including areas like Nile perch, tuna, seaweed, crabs and more.”
Furthermore, as a resource-rich country, we continue seeing demand for Tanzanian minerals, natural gas and other commodities in China, India, UAE and beyond. Ongoing reforms aim to ensure such demand also translates into wider economic and job growth rather than just raw material exports.
In terms of investment, our strategic geographic location, population size and growing consumer class offer a lucrative base for investors across sectors like manufacturing, logistics, tourism, light industries and more. Our role is to highlight these advantages and channel FDI into priority sectors.
TanzaniaInvest: How can regional economic communities like East African Community (EAC), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) support Tanzania’s trade growth?
Latifa Khamis: Tanzania’s participation in multiple regional trade agreements creates valuable market access opportunities for local companies depending on their products and priorities. For example, exporters targeting European markets can leverage EAC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) duty-free access to penetrate demand channels there.
“Tanzania’s participation in multiple regional trade agreements creates valuable market access opportunities for local companies.”
Manufacturers facing standards compliance challenges may find it easier to test regional trade within EAC and SADC first before expanding internationally. The AfCFTA opens doors for Tanzanian goods to reach billions of African consumers – but firms must build capabilities to fully capitalize.
Overall, presence across these three major trade blocks means Tanzanian producers can potentially access domestic, regional and global value chains. We need to improve competitiveness to translate this unprecedented market access into new growth frontiers.
TanzaniaInvest: What is your message to foreign partners and investors looking at Tanzania?
Latifa Khamis: Tanzania today offers an unparalleled blend of strong leadership commitment, a growing consumer base, strategic location and young talents that position it as the next investment frontier.
“Tanzania today offers an unparalleled blend of strong leadership commitment, a growing consumer base, strategic location and young talents that position it as the next investment frontier.”
We have a government that wants to enable business, not constrain it. We have a vibrant, youthful population that is climbing the income ladder and fuelling demand. We are implementing far-reaching reforms to reduce red tape and improve competitiveness.
Tanzania has abundant agricultural, mineral and tourism resources that can drive value-adding enterprises and jobs. Partners abroad looking for new opportunities in Africa need to actively explore Tanzania – the potential is truly immense. Come grow with us!