Kenya rich with opportunities for local exporters

08 May, 2022 - 00:05 0 Views
Kenya rich with opportunities for local exporters

The Sunday Mail

Trade Focus
Allan Majuru

The ongoing engagement and re-engagement drive being spearheaded by President Mnangagwa is bearing fruit.

An increasing number of countries are warming up to bilateral trade and economic relations with Zimbabwe.

Of late, the Second Republic has intensified engagements with fellow African countries as it looks to unlock opportunities availed by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

In March, President Mnangagwa was in Kenya on a State visit, during which he held high-level talks with his counterpart, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The two Presidents discussed the need to expand cooperation between Harare and Nairobi in critical areas such as trade, investment and tourism. In addition, the Zimbabwe-Kenya Joint Permanent Commission for Cooperation (JPCC) has over the past few years been engaging in areas that will bolster ties between the two countries.  What is perhaps important going forward is for local companies to explore opportunities available in Kenya, as well as create strong synergies with like-minded businesses in the East African country.

To kick-start this, ZimTrade – the country’s trade development and promotion agency – recently completed a survey in Kenya, whose objective was to identify local products and services with potential in the country.

The survey also scoped areas that local companies can consider when engaging potential business partners.

This article will provide snippets of the survey’s findings, which will be discussed in detail at a seminar to be organised soon.


Kenya’s economy is the largest in East Africa.

The country’s overall economic performance is expected to be robust, registering a 4,9 percent growth in 2022-2023.

Over the last few years, Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product has registered sustained growth, supported by ongoing public infrastructure projects, strong public and private sector investment, and appropriate economic and fiscal policies, reflecting the broad-based and diversified nature of the Kenyan economy.

In terms of trade, Kenya is a high-import country, taking up products and services worth US$15,4 billion from across the world in 2020, according to Trade Map.

The largest share of import value went to fuels and oils, machinery and accessories, electrical machinery and equipment, iron and steel, vehicles, and vehicle parts.

Other top imported products in Kenya include cereals, pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, sugars and sugar confectionery, home and office furniture, and clothing and textiles.

Of this import value, Zimbabwe’s share remains low, accounting for only US$53 million worth of products exported to the country in 2020, according to Trade Map.

Zimbabwe’s exports to Kenya in 2020 were mainly driven by sugar, tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes.

During the same time, Zimbabwe imported products worth US$11 million from Kenya, thus recording a trade surplus of US$43 million.

Although trade between the two countries is considerably low when compared with the country’s other trading partners, this is expected to improve following the signing of five Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) to strengthen relations during the JPCC held in Kenya.

Fresh produce

Although Kenya is doing well in terms of horticultural exports, it also has requirements that local farmers can meet.

For example, Kenya imports almost all its citrus requirements and there is a good market for Grade B produce that may not be good enough for the European market.

However, more opportunities in the fresh produce sector will be unlocked if Zimbabwean farmers consider partnerships with farmers in Kenya, where they jointly supply markets.

Some of the farmers are entering into agreements with Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda to grow export crops so that they meet contractual obligations from international markets.

Processed foods

Kenya has a population of more than 52 million, providing great market opportunities for quality and non-GMO consumer goods.

Products with potential include biscuits, cooking oil, sugar syrups, cordials, spaghetti and cereals.  Kenya, when compared to Zimbabwe, attracts high prices for processed foods, making it lucrative for local companies that are eyeing the market.

Kenya’s prices are generally high, with certain products like cooking oil costing 100 percent more than the local retail price.

In terms of product range, Kenya has attracted international brands such as Proctor and Gamble, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and Nestle.  For local companies that are looking to export to Kenya, there is need to up their packaging and marketing game as products are competitive.

Agriculture inputs and implements

The government of Kenya has prioritised agriculture as one of the key drivers of economic growth.  Kenya has more than two million small-scale farmers who contribute 60 percent of the country’s produce.

Noticeably, the country has a well-integrated value chain system for small-scale farmers.

Inputs and implements targeted at small-scale farmers are crucial for Kenya and offer opportunities for local suppliers.

Products with potential include foliar fertilisers, controlled-release fertilisers as well as irrigation equipment.

Irrigation equipment, design and construction of custom greenhouses, and agricultural nets are other requirements that local exporters can supply.

Oil and stock feed

Kenya requires cooking oil for human consumption as well as cake for stock feed, and the current supply is failing to meet demand.

Accordingly, in 2021, the Association of Kenya Feed Manufacturers reported that thirty animal feed manufacturers closed within a space of two months due to raw material shortages.  Currently, the market is dependent on oil cake imports from Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda and Malawi.

Due to adverse weather, Zambia’s ban on soya exports and Covid-19-related issues, supplies from these countries have declined.

All these challenges offer opportunities for local suppliers who can meet the standards, quality and quantity required.


Kenya has strict product standards.

Importers and or manufacturers need to comply with regulatory standards set by Kenya Bureau of Standards.

These standards cut across all sectors.

Each product that is sold in Kenya undergoes the KEBAS system compliance and this is done to minimise cases of fake products being offered to customers.

Market access

The Kenyan market provides various entry strategies and the most viable for exporters is through a distributor.

Partnerships to create a local presence will also help grow exports, particularly for products and services that require consumer support.

Direct supply to retail chains is also an option, but, as with any other market, this requires local companies to build enough distribution and logistics network that ensures goods and services reach targeted areas in time.

Regarding logistics, the product to be exported will determine the best choice of transport.  For small but high-cost and perishable products, local companies can take advantage of Kenya Airways, which plies the Harare-Nairobi route.

Bulk products can be supplied via road, with the most viable route being through Zambia and Tanzania.

Sea freight is cost-effective but takes longer compared to other transport modes, hence exporters and buyers will need to agree on specific timelines to get products to Kenya.

Allan Majuru is ZimTrade’s chief executive officer.


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