Kenya flag Kenya: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Kenya

Foreign Trade in Figures

Kenya is relatively open to foreign trade, which accounts for 31% of its GDP (World Bank, latest data available). The country remains committed to trade liberalization through its membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC), which includes Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan. Kenya also ratified the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and signed many bilateral trade agreements. The country is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States and is one of the top five beneficiaries of the US-Africa trade initiative, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Moreover, in 2022 the two countries launched the U.S.-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership. Most tariff barriers have been eliminated and customs duties are not very high. Kenya mostly exports agricultural products (tea, flowers, coffee, fruits, and vegetables), petroleum oils, titanium ores, iron and medicines; and mainly imports petroleum products, palm oil, medicines, cereals, vehicles, and manufactured products.

The country's main customers are Uganda (12.3%), the Netherlands (8.3%), the United States (8%), Pakistan (7.2%), the United Kingdom (6.7%), and Tanzania (6.1%); whereas its main suppliers are China (20.5% of total imports), India (10.8%), the United Arab Emirates (8.3%), Saudi Arabia (5.3%), Japan (4.6%), Malaysia (4.4%) and the United States (4.1% - data Comtrade).

Kenya imports almost three times more than it exports, which translates into a trade balance that is largely in deficit. This situation persists, due to imports related to infrastructure modernization and oil exploration. In 2021, total goods exports reached USD 6.7 billion whereas imports amounted to USD 19.5 billion (+11.6% and +26.7% y-o-y, respectively). The bill of import for services stood at USD 4 billion, slightly below that of export (USD 4.6 billion). Overall, the negative trade balance was estimated at 9.5% of the country’s GDP (up from -8% one year earlier – data World Bank). Although official figures for 2022 are not available yet, Kenya’s exports suffered from the severe drought that hit the country: as an example, in the first nine months of the year overseas sales of black tea (the main export) dropped 22% in volume terms compared to the same period one year earlier (marking the first decline in five years).

 
Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 17,37817,65515,43519,55921,166
Exports of Goods (million USD) 6,0525,8396,0346,7397,411
Imports of Services (million USD) 3,8813,8553,3273,9995,000
Exports of Services (million USD) 5,4775,6013,6585,0366,926

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 34.431.827.230.733.7
Trade Balance (million USD) -10,200-10,683-8,338-11,065-11,704
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -8,603-8,937-8,008-10,028-10,547
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.41.8-9.422.24.5
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 6.8-3.2-14.915.310.7
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 21.920.317.619.921.5
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 12.511.49.610.812.2

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20232024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)2027 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 2.89.07.77.16.4
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) -0.46.97.47.77.3

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
Member of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

Member of East African Community (EAC)

Member of African Union (AU)

Beneficiary of the Economic Partnership Agreements with the EU

Beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program with the US

Beneficiary of the Generalised System of Preferences of the EU

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
Uganda 10.3%
United States 9.8%
Pakistan 8.2%
Netherlands 6.7%
Tanzania 6.3%
See More Countries 58.6%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
China 18.2%
United Arab Emirates 16.4%
India 10.1%
Saudi Arabia 4.9%
Malaysia 4.8%
See More Countries 45.6%

Source: Comtrade, 2023. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

6.6 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Tea, whether or not flavouredTea, whether or not flavoured 21.0%
Cut flowers and flower buds of a kind suitable for...Cut flowers and flower buds of a kind suitable for bouquets or for ornamental purposes, fresh, dried, dyed, bleached, impregnated or otherwise prepared 9.5%
Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated;...Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated; coffee husks and skins; coffee substitutes containing coffee in any proportion 5.0%
Titanium ores and concentratesTitanium ores and concentrates 3.8%
Dates, figs, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes...Dates, figs, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes and mangosteens, fresh or dried 2.5%
See More Products 58.2%
21.1 bn USD of products imported in 2022
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 24.0%
Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined...Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 5.1%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 3.1%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.7%
Flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel,...Flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel, of a width >= 600 mm, hot-rolled, not clad, plated or coated 2.5%
See More Products 62.6%

Source: Comtrade, 2023. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2023. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

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Latest Update: December 2023

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