China and India remained the two top sources of imports for Kenya in the last year, with the value of goods from the former being boosted by the ongoing Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) works.
According to the 2017 Economic Survey, the amount of money Kenyans paid to import goods from the two countries accounted for a third of the total import bill in 2016.
Kenya imports diverse goods from the two countries, ranging from machinery and equipment to healthcare products and clothes. Equipment for the SGR, which is nearing completion, pushed up the value of imports from China.
Goods from China last year were valued at Sh337 billion, which was a growth from Sh320 billion in 2015 while the value of those from India stood at Sh205 billion, down from Sh252 billion the previous year.
At Sh542 billion, the combined value of imports from the two countries accounted for about 30 per cent of Kenya’s total import bill for 2016, which was Sh1.43 trillion.
The value of imports is also in comparison to the value of exports to China at Sh10 billion and Sh11 billion to India.
According to the survey, the value of goods that Kenya imported from other countries reduced to Sh1.43 trillion in 2016 from Sh1.57 trillion in 2015, mostly on the account of sustained lower prices of petroleum products.
Similarly, exports to other countries went down, although by a small margin to Sh578.1 billion in 2016 from Sh581.0 billion in 2015.
The impact of a slight decline in imports and marginal reduction in exports was an improvement in the balance of trade deficit, which is the difference between the value of goods imported by a country and those that it exports.
“The decline in imports outweighed contraction in exports, resulting in a 14.3 per cent improvement in the balance of trade deficit from Sh996.5 billion in 2015 to Sh853.7 billion in 2016. During the review period, the value of exports covered 40.4 per cent of the imports, an improvement from 36.8 per cent recorded in the previous year,” says the report.