That dollar amount reflects a 22.2% upturn over the 5-year period starting with $6.05 billion in 2018.
Year over year, Kenya’s total sales from exports rose by 9.6% compared to $6.74 billion during 2021.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2022, the Kenyan shilling depreciated by -16.4% against the US dollar since 2018 and fell by -7.5% from 2021 to 2022. Kenya’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
Kenya’s Largest Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that over two-thirds (68%) of products exported from Kenya were bought by importers in: Uganda (11.1% of the Kenyan total), United States of America (9.2%), Netherlands (8%), Pakistan (7.4%), Tanzania (6.6%), United Kingdom (5.12%), United Arab Emirates (5.06%), Rwanda (4.6%), mainland China (3.2%), Egypt (3.1%), South Sudan (2.7%), then the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2%).
From a continental perspective, 41% of Kenya’s exports by value was delivered to fellow African countries while 26.2% was sold to importers in Asia. Kenya shipped another 22.5% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to buyers in North America (9.7%), Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia, then Latin America (0.2%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given Kenya’s population of 50.9 million people, its total $7.4 billion in 2022 exported goods translates to roughly $145 for every resident in the East African country. That dollar metric is a flatlining gain from the average $140 per person one year earlier in 2021.
Kenya’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Kenyan global shipments during 2022. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Kenya.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$1.7 billion (23.4% of total exports)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $694.2 million (9.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $450.8 million (6.1%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $335.9 million (4.5%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $310.5 million (4.2%)
- Fruits, nuts: $279.3 million (3.8%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $225.4 million (3%)
- Vegetables: $215.5 million (2.9%)
- Iron, steel: $201.7 million (2.7%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $174.3 million (2.4%)
By value, Kenya’s top 10 exports generated over three-fifths (62.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 61.3% from 2021 to 2022.
In second place for improving export sales was animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes via a 43.2% advance.
Kenya’s shipments under the ores, slag and ash product category posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 29.9%. A strong driver for that increase were Kenyan international sales of titanium ores and concentrates.
There was a pair of double-digit decliners: Kenya’s exports of vegetables (down -28.7% from 2021) and live trees, plants and cut flowers (down -13.8%).
The above data is at the two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, tea including flavored varieties represents Kenya ’s most valuable exported product at 18.7% of the African country’s total. In second place were fresh or dried flowers for bouquets or ornamental purposes (8.5%) trailed by refined petroleum oils (5.7%), coffee (4.4%), titanium ores and concentrates (3.4%), palm oil (2.6%), dates, figs, pineapples, mangoes, avocadoes and guavas (2.3%), plated or coated items made from flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel (1.9%), medication mixes in dosage (also 1.9%), then unknitted and non-crocheted men’s suits or trousers (1.5%).
Products Driving Kenya’s Largest Trading Surpluses
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.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$1.7 billion (Up by 19.4% since 2021)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $684 million (Down by -14%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $304 million (Up by 23.9%)
- Fruits, nuts: $246.6 million (Up by 0.1%)
- Vegetables: $150.6 million (Down by -42.1%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $129.3 million (Up by 9.8%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $117.9 million (Down by -1.1%)
- Meat: $88 million (Up by 26.8%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $84.6 million (Up by 40.8%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $81.3 million (Down by -14.7%)
Kenya has highly positive net exports in the international trade principally for tea, coffee and spices like ginger, pepper, cloves and vanilla.
Products Behind Kenya’s Worst Trading Deficits
Kenya incurred an estimated -$13.7 billion trade deficit for 2022, up by 9.5% from -$12.5 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2021.
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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$5.14 billion (Up by 59.9% since 2021)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.34 billion (Down by -8.5%)
- Cereals: -$1.2 billion (Up by 19.3%)
- Iron, steel: -$1.04 billion (Down by -7.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1 billion (Down by -9.7%)
- Vehicles: -$967.7 million (Down by -26%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$845.4 million (Up by 0.7%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$821.2 million (Down by -2.5%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$609.8 million (Down by -4.6%)
- Paper, paper items: -$403.8 million (Up by 14.1%)
Kenya has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels particularly refined petroleum oils, petroleum gases and coal.
Kenyan Export Companies
According to MarcoPolis.net 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)
In macroeconomic terms, Kenya’s total exported goods represent 2.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2022 ($312.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 2.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2022 compares to 2.5% for 2021. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Kenya’s total economic performance, albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Kenya’s unemployment rate was 4.9% at January 2023, down from 5.6% one year earlier per Trading Economics.
Kenya’s capital city is Nairobi, nicknamed the “Safari Capital of the World” and the “Green City in the Sun”.
See also Kenya’s Top 10 Imports, Uganda’s Top 10 Exports, Coffee Exports by Country, Tea Imports by Country and Tea Exports by Country Plus Average Prices
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Kenya. Accessed on May 23, 2023
Forbes 2022 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 23, 2023
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 23, 2023
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 23, 2023
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 23, 2023
MarcoPolis.net, Top 10 Companies in Kenya, Kenya Report. Accessed on May 23, 2023
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on May 23, 2023
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Kenya. Accessed on May 23, 2023
Wikipedia, Kenya. Accessed on May 23, 2023
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on May 23, 2023