Export trade begins when a country has produced more goods and services than its domestic demand. It is penetration into new markets away from home. This does not come without challenges as many trade agreements need to be entered before goods and money is allowed to flow from source to a foreign market. It is therefore a game of industrial development, building of trade relationships with other countries and creation of sound policies to regulate cross – border trade. The starting point is production of goods and services at surplus amounts. At the production stage, a country needs to tap into areas of strength in order to maximize output. Since international trade is competitive, focus in producing goods for exports should be on industries that give the country a competitive advantage over its competitors. In this column, I hold the view that Kenya is performing below average in producing goods for export.
Kenya’s prominence in the community of nations is ever rising with outstanding performances in sports and regional influence. The country also boosts of rich cultures, phenomenal wildlife, epic scenes of the rift valley, great lakes and sandy beaches along the Indian Ocean which attract tourists in significantly large numbers. This prominence can be utilized in promoting “Made in Kenya” brands if they existed. Sadly enough, so little in supermarket and retail shop shelves is made in Kenya. Today Kenya imports almost everything including sugar, maize, chicken, eggs, fish and pineapples. For decades, Kenya has enjoyed balance of trade surplus with its leading trading partners in the region except for the recent increase in imports from Uganda and Tanzania without reciprocating the same in exports.
According to world integrated trade solution (WITS) website, Kenya’s imports are majorly consumer goods at 63.43% of total imports whereas capital goods and raw materials only account for 5.47% and 19.60% of total imports respectively. Kenya holds potential in exporting already processed agricultural produce, refined minerals and services including education, health and financial services. With the ongoing efforts to set-up a manufacturing factory for Covid-19 vaccines, Kenya opens another chapter of producing pharmaceutical drugs for local and export markets. The country’s strategic location in the Eastern Africa region can be tapped in increasing export sales. This will be facilitated by the ongoing infrastructural developments such as LAPSSET linking Kenya with its neighbors. Kenya needs to draw lessons from Dubai which has successfully diversified its export revenue and has now mobilized the world to trade with her.