Kenya exports to Africa markets hit 8-year high


A cargo ship arrives at the Mombasa port. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya’s exports to key markets in Africa rose to an eight-year high in 2020, provisional international trade data show, defying delays at border points caused by efforts to stem the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Data collated by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) indicate value of goods that were sold to other countries on the continent amounted to Sh243.68 billion, a 9.07 percent growth over the previous year.

The growth in value of trade between Kenya and Africa to the highest level since 2012 (Sh247.60 billion) was largely driven by demand in smaller exports destinations on the continent.

Nairobi is championing a plan to remove trade barriers among African countries to grow movement of goods, services and labour through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which aims to create a market of at least 1.2 billion.

Kenya, whose sales to Africa accounted for 38 percent of total global exports of Sh641.21 billion, lost to Accra in race to host the AfCFTA secretariat in July 2019, a pointer to its push for intra-Africa trade which remains at a lowly 10 percent of Africa’s total trade with the world.

“For the full benefit of the (AfCFTA) trade deal to be realised, it is essential Kenya prioritises key and high potential sectors and markets and backs this with a well-thought action plan and strategic interventions,” Frank Matsaert, the CEO of Trademark East Africa, told a meeting to review Kenya’s AcFTA implementation strategy on Monday.

The CBK data, sourced from the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), shows exports to countries classified as “others”, including South Sudan, rose at the sharpest pace of 23.13 percent to Sh53.62 billion.

Only Tanzania and Somalia posted a decline in demand for goods from Kenya amongst major trading partners on the continent.

Tanzania, which mid last year temporarily quarreled with Kenya over Covid-19 protocols at the height of the pandemic restrictions and shutdowns in the second quarter of 2020, bought goods worth Sh31.3 billion — a 6.87 percent drop compared with a year earlier.

Exports to Somalia, largely miraa (khat), fell a marginal 3.86 percent to Sh11.38 billion.

The two countries are embroiled in a bitter, long-standing diplomatic feud over ownership of a triangle in the Indian Ocean measuring about 100,000 square kilometres and believed to be rich in oil and gas resources. Exports to land-locked Uganda and Rwanda, however, rose 12.97 and 8.72 percent, respectively, to Sh71.97 billion and Sh25.20 billion.