EPZ firms hire 7,400 new staff on rising exports

The value of exports from EPZ’s hit Sh85.41 billion. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Companies operating in the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) hired 7,477 new workers in the financial year ended June on relaxed Covid-19 disruptions that boosted demand in export markets.

Data from the State Department of Trade shows that the number of workers in these economic zones set up to promote exports hit 60,075 in the review period, up from 52,598 in the previous similar period.

The new jobs are in contrast to the year ended June 2020 when EPZ firms laid off 8,135 workers. Covid-19 saw export markets seal their borders in efforts to contain the virus.

At 60,705 jobs, the EPZ firms are close to recovering the pre-pandemic workforce of 60,733 that was in place in the 2018/2019 financial year.

The increased jobs have been supported by relaxed Covid-19 control measures that helped boost exports to markets such as the US and large parts of Europe on the back of vaccination rollout.

EPZ plant, Athi River. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The value of exports from EPZ’s hit Sh85.41 billion - surpassing the previous financial year’s Sh70.57 billion and the Sh80 billion target that had been set by the ministry.

“In the financial year 2020/21, there was an increase in demand for tea, apparel and dartboard products from EPZ firms,” said the State Department of Trade.

Last year, EPZ firms had to depend on the local market for sales, helping them to avoid steep falls in their activities as the pandemic paralysed the export market.

National Treasury had in the year ended June 2020 offered a reprieve for EPZs by lifting the restriction of selling only 20 per cent of the annual production in the local market.

EPZs attracted Sh117.51 billion as direct investments up from the previous year’s Sh109.1 billion, helped by marketing promotions by the Export Processing Zones Authority.

The increase was also attributed to four new firms that joined the EPZ programme as well as investment expansion by the existing ones.

Kenya closed June 2021 with 144 EPZ firms - below the targeted 166. The missed target is linked to budget shortfalls. “Delay in completion of industrial sheds, inadequate budgetary allocation and Covid-19 have affected the programme,” said the State Department. 

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