That dollar amount reflects a 21.6% increase from $17.4 billion in 2018.
From 2021 to 2022, the total cost for Kenyan imports rose 9.5% compared to $19.3 billion at the start of the year-over-year period.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2022, the Kenyan shilling depreciated by -16.4% against the US dollar since 2018 and diluted by -7.5% from 2021 to 2022. Kenya’s weaker local currency makes its imports paid for in inflated US dollars relatively more expensive when converted starting from Kenyan shillings.
Kenya’s Largest Suppliers for Imported Products
The latest available country-specific data shows that 72.1% of products imported into Kenya was shipped by exporters in: mainland China (18.2% of the Kenyan total), United Arab Emirates (16.4%), India (10.1%), Saudi Arabia (4.9%), Malaysia (4.8%), Japan (3.9%), United States of America (3.8%), South Africa (2.5%), Tanzania (2.1%), South Korea (2%), Egypt (1.8%) and Uganda (1.6%).
Applying a continental lens, well over two-thirds (70.6%) of Kenya’s total imports by value were purchased from Asian countries. European trade partners supplied 11.8% of import purchases by Kenya, while another 10.9% originated from fellow African nations.
Smaller percentages came from exporters in North America (4.3%), Latin America (1.5%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, then Oceania (0.8%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Kenya’s population of 50.9 million people, its total $21.1 billion in 2022 imports translates to roughly $415 in yearly product demand from every person in the East African country. That dollar metric exceeds the average $400 per person one year earlier during 2021.
Kenya’s Top 10 Imports
The following product groups represent the highest dollar value in Kenya’s import purchases during 2022. Also shown is the percentage share each product category represents in terms of overall imports into Kenya.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$5.6 billion (26.5% of total imports)
- Machinery including computers: $1.4 billion (6.7%)
- Iron, steel: $1.24 billion (5.9%)
- Cereals: $1.2 billion (5.7%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $1.16 billion (5.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $1.08 billion (5.1%)
- Vehicles: $1.06 billion (5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $971.9 million (4.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $759.7 million (3.6%)
- Paper, paper items: $488.9 million (2.3%)
Kenya’s top 10 imports accounted for more than two-thirds (70.8%) of the overall value of its product purchases from other countries.
Imported mineral fuels including oil posted the fastest growth among Kenya’s top 10 import categories, up 60% from 2021 to 2022.
In second place for increasing Kenyan import purchases was the paper including items made from paper category, propelled by a 17.6% uptick.
Kenyan imports of cereals delivered the third-fastest advance, up 16.3%. That category was propelled by higher spending on corn, wheat and rice from international suppliers.
Two imported product categories recorded double-digit declines, namely vehicles (down -23.3% from 2021) and machinery including computers (down -11.2%).
Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.
Information presented below is at the more granular 4-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level.
Applying the more detailed code perspective, Kenya’s top 10 imported products were processed petroleum oils (24% of Kenya’s imports), palm oil (5.1%), wheat (3.1%), medication mixes in dosage (2.7%), products made from hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel (2.5%), cars (2%), semi-finished products made from iron or non-alloy steel (1.8%), rice (1.4%), phone devices including smartphones (1.3%), then fertilizer mixes (1.2%).
Collectively, those 10 products attracted 45.1% of Kenya’s total spending on imported products.
Kenya’s Imports of Energy Products
In 2022, Kenyan importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of mineral fuels including oil.
- Processed petroleum oils: US$5.1 billion (up 65.9% from 2021)
- Petroleum gases: $247.8 million (up 4.6%)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $138.2 million (up 37.7%)
- Petroleum oil residues: $48.5 million (up 32.2%)
- Electrical energy: $32.2 million (up 279.5%)
- Asphalt/petroleum bitumen mixes: $19 million (down -20.8%)
- Petroleum jelly, mineral waxes: $18.3 million (up 2.9%)
- Coal tar oils (high temperature distillation): $6.2 million (up 74.6%)
- Natural bitumen, asphalt, shale: $5.9 million (up 9.1%)
- Peat: $1.5 million (up 16.8%)
Among these import subcategories, Kenyan purchases of electrical energy (up 279.5%), high temperature distilled coal tar oils (up 74.6%), then processed petroleum oils (up 65.9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2021 to 2022.
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.
Kenya’s Imports of Machinery Products
In 2022, Kenyan importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of machinery including computers.
- Computers, optical readers: US$138.6 million (up 7.9% from 2021)
- Miscellaneous machinery: $110.2 million (up 51.7%)
- Sort/screen/washing machinery: $93.3 million (down -37.1%)
- Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers): $79 million (down -40.1%)
- Liquid pumps and elevators: $65.4 million (down -3.4%)
- Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $53.6 million (down -28%)
- Refrigerators, freezers: $50 million (down -4.1%)
- Temperature-change machines: $49.5 million (down -36.1%)
- Derricks, cranes: $45 million (down -1.3%)
- Industrial preparation machinery: $44.8 million (up 63.2%)
Among these import subcategories, Kenyan purchases of industrial preparation machinery (up 63.2%), miscellaneous machinery (up 51.7%), then computers including optical readers (up 7.9%) grew at the fastest pace from 2021 to 2022.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported machinery among businesses and consumers in Kenya.
Kenya’s Imports of Iron and Steel
In 2022, Kenyan importers spent the most on the following 10 subcategories of the metals iron and steel.
- Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products: US$520.6 million (up 10% from 2021)
- Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished): $370.6 million (up 3.7%)
- Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated): $96.8 million (down -3.2%)
- Coiled iron or non-alloy steel bars, rods: $67.7 million (down -29.8%)
- Flat-rolled other alloy steel products: $46.1 million (down -67.4%)
- Iron or non-alloy steel angles, shapes, sections: $34.4 million (down -0.1%)
- Flat-rolled stainless steel items: $21.4 million (up 173.5%)
- Iron or steel scrap: $12.1 million (up 405.4%)
- Pig iron: $11.7 million (up 1,168,000%)
- Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated): $9.7 million (up 30.5%)
Among these import subcategories, Kenyan purchases of pig iron (up 1,168,000%), iron or steel scrap (up 405.4%), then items made from flat-rolled stainless steel (up 173.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2021 to 2022.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported iron and steel among Kenyan businesses and consumers.
Kenya’s Imports of Cereals
In 2022, Kenyan importers spent the most on the following subcategories of cereals.
- Wheat: US$660.6 million (up 16.4% from 2021)
- Rice: $291 million (up 2.8%)
- Corn: $207.8 million (up 67.9%)
- Sorghum grain: $38.5 million (down -27.4%)
- Buckwheat, millet, canary seeds: $6 million (down -21.4%)
- Rye: $7,000 (up 40%)
- Barley: $3,000 (down -25%)
Among these import subcategories, Kenyan purchases of corn (up 67.9%), rye (up 40%), then wheat (up 16.4%) grew at the fastest pace from 2021 to 2022.
These amounts and the percentage gains within parenthesis clearly show where the strongest demand lies for different types of imported cereals among Kenyan businesses and consumers.
See also Kenya’s Top 10 Exports, Refined Oil Exports by Country, Drugs and Medicines Exports by Country, Wheat Exports by Country and Car Exports by Country Plus Average Prices per Car
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Kenya. Accessed on May 24, 2023
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 24, 2023
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 24, 2023
Wikipedia, Kenya. Accessed on May 24, 2023