Kenya’s Top 10 Exports

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Located on the equator and along Africa’s eastern coast, the Republic of Kenya exported US$5.7 billion worth of products around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a 3.8% increase since 2013 and a 0.9% gain from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Kenya’s exported goods plus services represent 13.9% of total Kenyan economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, 33.7% of Kenyan exports by value were delivered to fellow African countries while 28.4% were sold to European importers. Kenya shipped another 23.7% worth of goods to Europe with 8.9% arriving in North America. Smaller percentages were sent to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.3%) then Oceania (0.2%).

Given Kenya’s population of 47.6 million people, its total $5.7 billion in 2017 exported goods translates to roughly $120 for every resident in the East African country.

Kenya’s unemployment rate was a projected 11.05% as of June 2018 according to Trading Economics.

Kenya’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Kenyan global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Kenya.

At the more detailed four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Kenya’s most valuable exported good is tea. Other top Kenyan exports are fresh or dried flowers for bouquets or ornamental purposes, refined petroleum oils, coffee, titanium ores and concentrates then medication mixes in dosage.

  1. Coffee, tea, spices: US$1.7 billion (29% of total exports)
  2. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $595.6 million (10.4%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: $353.7 million (6.2%)
  4. Vegetables: $209.2 million (3.6%)
  5. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $190.3 million (3.3%)
  6. Fruits, nuts: $180.7 million (3.1%)
  7. Ores, slag, ash: $177.3 million (3.1%)
  8. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $134.2 million (2.3%)
  9. Plastics, plastic articles: $129.5 million (2.3%)
  10. Pharmaceuticals: $124.2 million (2.2%)

Kenya’s top 10 exports accounted for about two-thirds (65.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Ores, slag, ash was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 24.7% from 2016 to 2017. This increase was propelled in large part by improving international sales of titanium ores and concentrates.

In second place for improving export sales was fruits and nuts which was up 20.6% year over year.

Kenyan coffee, tea and spices posted the third-fastest appreciation via a 14.7% gain showing improvements for all three product types.

Vegetables represents the fastest decliner trailed by the mineral fuels including oil then pharmaceuticals categories.


The following types of Kenyan product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Coffee, tea, spices: US$1.6 billion (Up by 14.6% since 2016)
  2. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $589.5 million (Up by 7.2%)
  3. Ores, slag, ash: $165.5 million (Up by 29.1%)
  4. Fruits, nuts: $151.4 million (Up by 20%)
  5. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $107.4 million (Down by -37.3%)
  6. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $96 million (Up by 5%)
  7. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $94.3 million (Up by 25.9%)
  8. Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $90.7 million (Down by -12.4%)
  9. Vegetables: $88.4 million (Down by -57.7%)
  10. Vegetable plaiting materials: $47.2 million (Up by 7.2%)

Kenya has highly positive net exports in the international trade of tea and to a lesser extent coffee. In turn, these cashflows indicate Kenya’s strong competitive advantages under the coffee, tea and spices product category.


Overall, Kenya incurred a -$10.9 billion trade deficit for 2017 up by 30% from -$8.4 billion one year earlier.

Below are exports from Kenya that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Kenya’s goods trail Kenyan importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$2.4 billion (Up by 41.5% since 2016)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$1.8 billion (Up by 17.5%)
  3. Cereals: -$1.08 billion (Up by 131.9%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.06 billion (Down by -18.1%)
  5. Vehicles: -$1.1 billion (Down by -0.5%)
  6. Iron, steel: -$627.6 million (Up by 28.5%)
  7. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$561.1 million (Up by 36.4%)
  8. Plastics, plastic articles: -$544.4 million (Up by 4%)
  9. Sugar, sugar confectionery: -$542 million (Up by 228.5%)
  10. Railways, streetcars: -$499.9 million (Up by 258.1%)

Kenya has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels including oil. Kenya’s biggest product-specific deficits under this category are for refined petroleum oils (-$2.2 billion), petroleum gas (-$111.4 million) and coal (-$45.1 million).


Kenyan Export Companies

According to rankings, the following are the top 10 Kenyan companies. Six of these companies are banks, which can support Kenya’s international trade projects.

  • Safaricom (telecommunications)
  • East African Breweries (beverages)
  • Equity Banking (banking)
  • Kenya Commercial Bank (banking)
  • British American Tobacco (tobacco)
  • Standard Chartered Bank (banking)
  • Co-operative Bank of Kenya (banking)
  • Lafarge-Bamburi Cement (cement)
  • Barclays Bank (banking)
  • Diamond Trust Bank (banking)

Wikipedia also lists exporters from Kenya. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Cooper Motor Corporation (automobiles)
  • Kakuzi Limited (coffee, tea, fruits)
  • KenolKobil (petroleum)
  • Sasini (tea, coffee)
  • Total Kenya (petroleum)

Kenya’s capital city is Nairobi, nicknamed the “Safari Capital of the World” and the “Green City in the Sun”.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Kenya’s Top 10 Imports, Coffee Exports by Country and Tea Imports by Country

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 22, 2018

The World Factbook, Africa: Kenya, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on June 22, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on June 22, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 22, 2018, Top 10 Companies in Kenya, Kenya Report. Accessed on June 22, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Kenya. Accessed on June 22, 2018