That dollar amount reflects a 17.5% increase over the 5-year period starting with $5.75 billion in 2017.
Year over year, Kenya’s total revenues from exports increased by 12% from $6 billion during 2020.
The top 5 most valuable products exported from Kenya are tea, fresh or dried flowers, processed petroleum oils, coffee, then titanium ores and concentrates. Collectively, those 5 categories accounted for almost four-fifths (39%) of the total value of Kenya’s exported goods in 2021.
Kenya’s Largest Trading Partners
The latest available country-specific data shows that over two-thirds (68.8%) of products exported from Kenya were bought by importers in: Uganda (12.3% of Kenya’s global total), Netherlands (8.3%), United States of America (8%), Pakistan (7.2%), United Kingdom (6.7%), Tanzania (6.1%), United Arab Emirates (4.7%), Rwanda (4.1%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (3.3%), mainland China (3%), Egypt (2.9%) and South Sudan (2.3%).
From a continental perspective, 41.5% of Kenya’s exports by value were delivered to fellow African countries while 25.2% were sold to importers in Europe. Kenya shipped another 24.2% worth of goods to Asia.
Smaller percentages went to North America (8.5%), Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia, then Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.2%).
Given Kenya’s population of 48.7 million people, its total $6.75 billion in 2021 exported goods translates to roughly $140 for every resident in the East African country. That dollar metric exceeds the average $100 per person one year earlier in 2020.
Kenya’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Kenyan global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Kenya.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$1.5 billion (21.8% of total exports)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $805.2 million (11.9%)
- Vegetables: $302.4 million (4.5%)
- Fruits, nuts: $282.3 million (4.2%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $280.6 million (4.2%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $258.6 million (3.8%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $231.4 million (3.4%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $218.8 million (3.2%)
- Iron, steel: $165.4 million (2.4%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $159.9 million (2.4%)
By value, Kenya’s top 10 exports accounted for roughly three-fifths (61%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Salt, sulphur, stone and cement was the fastest grower among the top 10 Kenyan export categories, up by 89.4% from 2020 to 2021.
In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel via a 30.9% expansion.
Kenya’s shipments of fruits and nuts posted the third-fastest acceleration in value, up by 30.5%.
The leading decliner among Kenya’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to its -31.1% drop year over year. That energy products category was dragged down by Kenya’s lower international revenues from exported refined petroleum oils.
From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, tea including flavored varieties represents Kenya ’s most valuable exported product at 17.7% of the African country’s total. In second place were fresh or dried flowers for bouquets or ornamental purposes (10.7%) trailed by refined petroleum oils (4.1%), coffee (3.7%), titanium ores and concentrates (2.8%), dates, figs, pineapples, mangoes, avocadoes and guavas (2.6%), palm oil (1.9%), plated or coated items made from iron or non-alloy steel (1.9%), medication mixes in dosage (also 1.9%) then unknitted and non-crocheted men’s suits or trousers (1.6%).
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$1.4 billion (Down by -0.6% since 2020)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $795.8 million (Up by 26.5%)
- Vegetables: $260.1 million (Up by 5.2%)
- Fruits, nuts: $246.3 million (Up by 33.7%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $245.4 million (Up by 21.7%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $119.2 million (Up by 54%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $117.8 million (Up by 20.4%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $95.3 million (Down by -31%)
- Vegetable/fruit/nut preparations: $82.6 million (Down by -23.4%)
- Meat: $69.4 million (Up by 18.8%)
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 -$12.8 billion trade deficit for 2021, up by 36.8% from -$9.4 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2020.
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$3.2 billion (Up by 81.8% since 2020)
- Machinery including computers: -$1.5 billion (Up by 7.7%)
- Vehicles : -$1.3 billion (Up by 21.3%)
- Iron, steel: -$1.12 billion (Up by 38.9%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$1.11 billion (Down by -2.4%)
- Cereals: -$998.5 million (Up by 32.3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$841.9 million (Up by 38.2%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$837.2 million (Up by 23.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$638.7 million (Up by 13.7%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$413.7 million (Up by 64.7%)
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 2.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($274.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 2.5% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2021 compares to 1.9% for 2020. Those percentages suggest a relatively increasing 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 average unemployment rate was 6.6% at March 2021, up from 5.2% 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 July 2, 2022
Forbes 2021 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 2, 2022
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 2, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 2, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 2, 2022
MarcoPolis.net, Top 10 Companies in Kenya, Kenya Report. Accessed on July 2, 2022
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 2, 2022
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Kenya. Accessed on July 2, 2022
Wikipedia, Kenya. Accessed on July 2, 2022
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 2, 2022