Kenya’s exports last year grew by the largest margin in four years on increased orders from Uganda, Britain and US, offering crucial support to the shilling against the bullish US dollar.
Official data shows that the country exported Sh580 billion worth of goods in 2015, up from Sh537 billion a year earlier, marking a growth of Sh43 billion which is the highest since 2011 when exports rose by Sh102 billion.
Uganda, the largest buyer of Kenyan goods like steel, paper and salt, stepped up its purchases from Nairobi to Sh60 billion in the review period from Sh48.6 billion.
Orders from the US, mainly textiles and coffee, grew by Sh2 billion to Sh40.3 billion while Britain’s purchases rose by Sh4 billion to Sh40 billion.
Government officials have in recent years been keen to promote a bigger exports receipt and leaner import bill as hard currency outflows continue to exceed inflows, piling pressure on the shilling.
Neighbouring Tanzania, however, cut its imports from Kenya by Sh8 billion to Sh25.3 billion, a trend that has been growing recently, according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data.
Some of the goods that Nairobi sells to Dar es Salaam include medicines, soap, polish, sweets and snacks (sugar confectionery) and construction materials.
Dar has been expanding its sea port, enabling it to import some of the goods it previously had to source from Kenya.
Tanzania has in the past been accused of putting non-trade barriers on Kenyans including delay of work permits.