Kenya-West trade relations soar despite the “looking east” policy

March 10, 2014

Africa, Business, International

Kenya-West trade relations soar despite the “looking east” policy

By Bedah Mengo

NAIROBI- Trade relations between Kenya and western nations continue to blossom despite the country’s increasing new bilateral ties, particularly with the East.

New economic data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) received on Monday indicates that western nations remained Kenya’s top export destinations last year, although the country’s economic cooperation increased dramatically with eastern nations.

Kenya’s top trading partners in the west, according to KNBS, are Britain, Netherlands, Germany, U.S. and France, although the first on its customer list is Uganda.

Exports to Britain totalled 432 million U.S. dollars in 2013, dropped from last year’s 471 million dollars.

Netherlands followed Britain closely as another top destination of Kenya’s export. The country imported goods worth 376 million dollars in 2013, up by 15 million dollars compared with 2012.

Agricultural products top Kenya’s export industry, mainly including cut flowers, fruits, coffee and tea. Last year, Kenya earned 981 million dollars from horticulture, dropped from 1.05 billion dollars in 2012.

Kenya further sources 90 percent of its tourists from western nations. The country’s tourism earnings in 2012 stood at 1.1 billion dollars, about 33 percent of its gross domestic product, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

There were fears that the change of regime in Kenya last year and its new foreign policy focusing on the East would hurt trade relations between the country and its key western allies.

“The Kenya-West standoff over ICC opened space for China and other Asian powers to gain ground in the country. Kenya bolstered its relations with China and other Asian countries as the West pushed for prosecution of it leaders,” noted Professor Peter Kagwanja of Africa Policy Institute in an analysis.

However, experts note that trade relations between Kenya and the West are still strong as the “looking east” policy needs time to take effect.

According to Kagwanja, China’s loans to Kenya worth 5.3 billion dollars have not translated into strong trade relations between the two, particularly when it comes to exports.

While Kenya imports millions of dollars worth of goods from Asian countries like China and India, the nation’s exports to the region are relatively small.

Kenya’s exports to China stood at 44 million dollars, and to India 113 million dollars. That is why the country still maintains strong ties with the West.
Video: Kenya launches free trade area in Mombasa

Video: Kenya running out of time to seal new trade deal with European Union

Video: The State of the Kenyan Economy – Current Trends and Future Prospects
On February 19, 2014 the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at Brookings and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) hosted a live webcast discussion on Kenya’s economy.

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi Skyline

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