Exports from Kenya to East African countries have shrunk over the past decade despite expectations that Kenyan entrepreneurs would experience a boom under the regional trading bloc that took effect in 2010.
Official data show the share of Kenyan exports to Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda shrank to 19.9 percent in the six months to June.
The share stood at 22.5 percent in similar period a decade ago as Kenyan exports to other countries rose faster than what it sold to the neighbouring countries.
This emerged in a period when a common market protocol was in place and touted to boost commerce among the East African Community (EAC) countries.
Experts say Tanzania and Uganda have in recent years boosted their industrial base, cutting their appetite for Kenya-made goods.
Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi inked the protocol in July 2010 allowing the free movement of goods, services, people and capital within the bloc.
The EAC was first set up in 1967, but it collapsed a decade later because of political and economic disagreements among its three original partners, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The bloc’s common market groups 177 million people and Kenya being the largest economy in the region was expected to benefit most from the increased commerce.
Though Uganda remains Kenya’s main export market in the region, frequent trade tiffs over commodities such as sugar, eggs and milk have often soured trade relations.
The Community membership has grown to seven countries with the recent admission of Democractic Republic of the Congo.