Kenyan traders spent Sh4.5 billion to import 24.9 million pairs of shoes in the first nine months of 2019, a 18.42 percent rise from the Sh3.8 billion spent during a similar period in 2018.
The quarterly balance of payments data indicate this was a 50.2 percent rise in imported footwear compared to the previous similar period in 2018 when 16.6 million pairs came in.
The January-March period had the highest number of footwear imported at 9.1 million pairs compared to 2018’s reported 4.2 million with a similar value of Sh1.3 billion.
While Kenya has in the past facilitated local production of shoes from locally processed leather and textile materials, the 2019 April-July period saw traders splash Sh1.8 billion for 8.7 million pairs of shoes, Sh700 million more than what was spent during a similar period in 2018 when 6.6 million pairs were imported.
The booming imported footwear business is a major boost for traders but adversely hurts government plan to spur the local leather value chain, a major labour intensive endeavour capable of employing thousands of Kenyans. The low-priced imported footwear products mostly made of resin is passed off to buyers as “genuine” leather edging out locally made leather footwear from the market.
Leather Apex Society of Kenya secretary general Beatrice Mwasi says strict standards should be implemented requiring shoemakers to label their products based on material used to make the footwear.