A country situated on Africa’s east-central coast and on the Equator, the Republic of Kenya’s imports totaled an estimated US$14 billion in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -13.1% decrease since 2015 and a -19.4% dip from 2018 to 2019.
Based on 2018 data, top suppliers accounting for over two-thirds (70.2%) of Kenya’s international purchases were: China (21.1%), India (10.5%), Saudi Arabia (9.8%), United Arab Emirates (8.4%), Japan (5.7%), South Africa (3.7%), United States (3%), Uganda (2.8%), Germany (2.6%) then Indonesia (also 2.6%).
From a continental perspective, 67.5% of Kenya’s total imports by value were purchased from Asian countries. European trade partners supplied 15.5% of import purchases by Kenya while 11.7% worth of goods originated from fellow African nations. Smaller percentages came from exporters in North America (3.7%), Latin America (1.3%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Kenya’s population of 49.4 million people, its total $14 billion in 2019 imports translates to roughly $300 in yearly product demand from every person in the country.
Kenya’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Kenya’s import purchases during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Kenya.
- Machinery including computers: US$1.4 billion (9.8% of total imports)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $1.3 billion (9.1%)
- Vehicles: $1.2 billion (8.8%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $1.1 billion (7.9%)
- Iron, steel: $878.2 million (6.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $828.4 million (5.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $535.1 million (3.8%)
- Cereals: $487.9 million (3.5%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $335.2 million (2.4%)
- Paper, paper items: $294.6 million (2.1%)
Kenya’s top 10 imports accounted for about three-fifths (59.6%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
Imported plastics including items made from plastic posted the fastest-growing increase in value among Kenya’s top 10 import categories, up 7.7% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving import purchases were electrical machinery and equipment thanks to a 5.1% uptick. Kenyan imports of articles made from iron or steel delivered the third-fastest gain up 2.1%.
Mineral fuels including oil was the laggard among the top 10 Kenyan import categories, posting a -67.2% decline (based on the latest estimates as time of article publication).
Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level. Information presented under other virtual folder tabs is at the more granular 4-digit level.
In 2019, Kenyan importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Computers, optical readers: US$118.1 million (up 2% from 2018)
- Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers): $79.7 million (down -41.1%)
- Lifting/loading machinery: $69.6 million (up 39.3%)
- Sort/screen/washing machinery: $57.2 million (down -20.9%)
- Turbo-jets: $56.7 million (up 646.1%)
- Refrigerators, freezers: $55.4 million (down -18.8%)
- Miscellaneous machinery: $53.7 million (up 12.5%)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $51.8 million (down -23.1%)
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: $48.1 million (up 2.3%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $46.5 million (down -25.9%)
Among these import subcategories, Kenyan purchases of turbo-jets (up 646.1%), lifting or loading machinery (up 39.3%) then miscellaneous machinery (up 12.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported machinery including computers among Kenyan businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Kenyan importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of electronics-related goods.
- Phone system devices including smartphones: US$268.1 million (up 3.8% from 2018)
- Electrical converters/power units: $86.3 million (down -38%)
- TV receivers/monitors/projectors: $86.3 million (up 6.9%)
- Insulated wire/cable: $82 million (down -7.8%)
- Electric storage batteries: $68.3 million (up 105.9%)
- Electric motor parts: $67.5 million (up 1,167%)
- Solar power diodes/semi-conductors: $60.7 million (down -6.3%)
- Lower-voltage switches, fuses: $54.3 million (up 19.1%)
- Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels: $53.8 million (down -11.9%)
- Portable battery-operated lamps: $42.8 million (up 441.8%)
Among these import subcategories, Kenyan purchases of electric motor parts (up 1,167%), portable battery-operated lamps (up 441.8%) then electric storage batteries (up 105.9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported electronics among Kenyan businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Kenyan importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of vehicles.
- Cars: US$513.7 million (down -7.2% from 2018)
- Trucks: $261.5 million (up 32.4%)
- Motorcycles: $134.6 million (up 20.5%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: $98.6 million (up 1.3%)
- Tractors: $78.7 million (down -40.9%)
- Motorcycle parts/accessories: $53.8 million (up 250.9%)
- Chassis fitted with engine: $29.3 million (up 5,889%)
- Trailers: $19 million (down -0.2%)
- Special purpose vehicles: $18.5 million (down -49.8%)
- Public-transport vehicles: $11.7 million (down -63.3%)
Among these import subcategories, Kenyan purchases of chassis fitted with engine (up 5,889%), motorcycle parts or accessories (up 250.9%) then trucks (up 32.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported vehicles among Kenyan businesses and consumers.
In 2019, Kenyan importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of mineral fuels including oil.
- Processed petroleum oils: US$966 million (down -68.7% from 2018)
- Petroleum gases: $89.5 million (down -39.9%)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $38.4 million (down -47.4%)
- Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $11.5 million (down -27.7%)
- Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $3.1 million (down -0.5%)
- Petroleum oil residues: $2.5 million (down -90.9%)
- Asphalt/petroleum bitumen mixes: $1 million (down -96.2%)
- Peat: $533,000 (down -40%)
- Crude oil: $288,000 (up 14,300%)
- Natural bitumen, asphalt, shale: $212,000 (down -96.8%)
Among these import subcategories, Kenyan purchases of crude oil (up 14,300%) represents the lone increase from 2018 to 2019.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported mineral fuels including oil among businesses and consumers in Kenya.
See also Kenya’s Top 10 Exports, China’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Kenya. Accessed on June 13, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 13, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 13, 2020
Wikipedia, Kenya. Accessed on June 13, 2020