Economy

Britain imports down by Sh2bn as Kenya looks East

port

Cargo at Mombasa Port. Britain is losing out to China, India and Japan whose share of business with Kenya has been on the rise. PHOTO | FILE

Kenya’s imports from Britain dropped for the first time in seven years, underlying the falling clout of the former colonial master that started with Kibaki’s presidency in 2003.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows goods worth Sh47 billion were imported from Britain, down from Sh49 billion in 2013.

The drop saw UK slip two positions in the rank of Kenya’s top sellers, behind Germany and Saudi Arabia in terms of doing business with East Africa’s largest economy.

“I wouldn’t put it down to politics. The two countries are still in good relationship but there is increased global competition,” said Dr Moses Ikiara the chief executive of Kenya Investment Authority.

Britain is losing out to China, India, and Japan whose share of business with Kenya has been on the rise.

These countries target Kenya with clothing, vehicles, electronics, pharmaceutical goods—which also top UK dealings with East Africa.

India and China have grown the trade with Africa nations helped by their low cost manufacturing sectors and increased diplomatic dealings that have seen the two countries secure multi-billion shilling deals, especially in the public sector.

India remained the top seller of goods to Kenya with imports worth Sh264 billion last year with China coming a close second with business valued at Sh248 billion.

READ: India beats China to top trading spot with Kenya

Germany overtook the UK to become Europe’s largest exporter to Kenya with goods worth Sh47.4 billion.

The US, whose trade with Kenya was also waning, has reviewed its strategy and targets Kenya with high-end technology deals with private companies.

Last year imports from the US more than tripled to Sh168 billion driven by importation of plane engines by Kenya Airways, locomotives by Rift Valley Railways and medical equipment.

Relationship between Nairobi and London came under focus following threats by the former colonial master to cut ties with Kenya should then ICC indictee, Uhuru Kenyatta, be appointed president in the 2013 Elections.

President Kenyatta is yet to visit London on official engagement between Kenya and the UK.

His visit to the UK in 2013 was to attend a conference on Somalia and last year he went to cheer on his wife who was participating in the London Marathon.

The UK parliament had in 2013 urged the government to deepen its relationship with Kenya despite the election of President Kenyatta terming the country as a crucial business partner. The country’s department in charge of foreign aid promised to increase its contributions to Kenya.

President Kenyatta is currently in Japan on a trade mission. He visited China in August, 2013 which was reciprocated with a visit by Chinese Premier nine months later.

The cooling of business relations with the UK started during President Kibaki’s tenure with the country looking East, mainly China, for better deals and unconditional aid.

The policy has seen Britain lose out on lucrative deals with the government such as supply of police and government vehicles.

Toyota Land Cruisers took the place of the British Land Rovers. Other contracts that Britain has lost include military merchandise now mainly sourced from China.