Between 2016-2017 Kenya’s exports have grown by a paltry 3% to Ksh 594Billion ($5.915 billion) while imports surged 20 percent to Sh1.7 trillion ($16.929 billion). This leaves a balance of trade amounting to Ksh 1.13Trillion ($11.253 billion). This is blamed on the slim export destinations made up of 13 countries which 70% of total exports.
Based on these figures, Kenya has been growing concerned over the declining amount of exports. With various global and regional dymanics at play, the country has found itself fighting with traditional as well as new players.
This week, (30th July to 3rd August), Kenya has held a Trade Week Conference in which it has attracted key players in the industry. The theme of Trade Week and Exposition is “Powering Kenya Big 4 Agenda through Trade”.
Among the issues discussed in the trade week included the launch of National Export Development and Promotion Strategy (NEDPS), discussions on Maximizing Market Access Opportunities especially with reference to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA); and deliberations on ease of doing business, competitiveness and Trade Facilitation in support of Big 4 Agenda. among other sessions.
While launching the conference, Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto acknowledged that the government was aware of the dwindling fortunes for Kenya but noted the country was determined to turn the tide.
“The Government will play a leading role in ensuring we achieve the growth we seek in exports, through collaboration with the private sector and keen attention to quality of our supply value chains,” noted Ruto. “For the 2010-17 period, our imports have outstripped exports more than three times. This cannot sustain a healthy economy; we must look for homegrown solutions to reverse this trend.”
He said with local and international support, a new Export Strategy focusing on manufacturing, agriculture, livestock, fisheries, trade in services, emerging sectors such as oil and gas will boost Kenya’s export share of GDP.
Kenya is expanding its foreign trade footprint, especially in Asia even as it leverage on the local market. “As government, we are expanding our foreign trade footprint: we will have 5 new Ambassadors in Asia(India & China). Their focus will be on trade-China and India contribute 40% of our imports and 4% of exports- we need to change that. We see the opportunity in the Free Trade Area arena and are keen to push this agenda. We have to think how we can penetrate export markets, create muscle through consolidation of key sector institutions to boost manufacturing and finance SMEs.” Ruto added.
Kenya’s Cabinet secretary of Trade Peter Munya was also adamant that something need to be done to reverse the trend. “We have been losing in the export market. This market has been taken by imports from other countries but we are working on providing more support to our local producers.”
The chairman of Kenya Private Sector Alliance Nick Nesbit, added, “There’s a lot of work to be done. We need to make our policies clear around foreign investments. To the government, let’s become more predictable and have consistency. Help us to Trust in Kenya.”