Kenya is the 85th largest importer in the world, resulting in a negative trade balance. During the last five years, imports into Kenya have grown at an annualised rate of 127 per cent. Below is a list of the most popular imports according to Source-waystocap.com
1. Refined petroleum
Refined petroleum, Kenya’s largest import product, accounts for 3.96 per cent of total imports. Most of the refined petroleum is imported from India at 77 per cent, although there are other small imports from other countries.
Despite Kenya making recent strides to discover and extract oil in Turkana County through Tullow Ltd, imports have made motorists suffer especially because of unprecedented hikes. The import value has been pegged at Sh1.28 trillion.
2. Packaged medicine
Kenya still lags behind in research and development of medicine, therefore, it depends heavily on imports. The import value currently stands at Sh496 billion which accounts for 3.1 per cent of Kenya’s total import bill.
The main origin of packaged medication is India at 59 per cent, Pakistan 8.9 per cent, China at 5.3 per cent United Kingdom at 7.6 per cent among other countries.
The country is a vehicle-thirsty nation and thousands of automobiles are imported annually. Automobiles and spare parts are imported from other countries in large quantities, including Japan at 74 per cent, United Arab Emirates 3.6 per cent among others countries.
This sector accounts for 5.77 per cent of the total importation quota. Japanese vehicles are in demand due to their affordability, longevity and accessibility to spare parts.
Mobile phones, entertainment units, computers, broadcast equipment and electrical equipment are among the most imported electronics. Most of these electronics are imported from China which accounts for 44 per cent with the United States following closely at 9.4 per cent.
Telephones are the leading import among imports triggered by affordability and network compatibility. The latest import value stands at Sh300.9 billion accounting for 4.65 per cent of net importations into the country.
Heavy equipment used in industries are mostly imported from the European Union and Asia. Such include farming tools, construction machinery and food processors. Most firms abroad are leveraging on a growing middle class to bring in equipment that ease operations and increase productivity.
Countries like Holland, England, China, Japan and Israel are some of the places Kenyan entrepreneurs and Government source equipment from in billions of shillings.
6. Alcohol and tobacco
Increase in spending power has led to a growing appetite for luxuries for example top of the range beverages and cigarettes. Between 2012 and last year, the domestic market’s imports of booze, spirits and alcoholic beverages grew by a whopping Sh8.2 billion.
Some of Kenya’s source markets include the EU, US and South Africa. According to a study by the World Bank, alcohol takes up 1.6 per cent of household consumption expenditure in Kenya.
7. Beauty products
From cosmetics, fragrances, oral care, bath and shower products to child care items, the personal care industry in Kenya takes up a significant 2.8 per cent of the average African household consumption budget. It is indeed a million-dollar industry with hundreds of parlours dotting the towns across the country.
Ladies are known to be the biggest consumers in this space which has seen a splurge in importations especially of crème end products like lip stick, weaves and ointments. Most of these products come from the US, France, India, South Africa and Turkey because of variety and quality.
8. Cereals, prains & wheat
The World Bank data suggests that cereals, grains and wheat take up the largest share of household spending. In Kenya, gross household expenditure on cereals, grains and wheat surpassed $64.5 Billion (Sh40.5 billion) in 2010 representing 27 per cent of the overall consumption budget.
Some very creative business opportunities around this include cereals supplies, milling, agri-business and value addition. Hundreds of jobs opportunities particularly at county levels and government agencies have been developed courtesy of knowledge sharing in this space and technical expertise from the advanced economies especially from the East, Americas and Europe.
Most garments and outfits are sourced heavily from overseas to bridge the gap that local manufacturers have failed to fill. Local firms have struggled due to standardisation demands made by various global market bodies including Comesa or Agoa. Clothes and footwear dealers have, therefore, looked mainly east especially India, Turkey and China to source affordable clothes for the masses.
Kenya has the third largest livestock herd in Africa, but a number of factors hinder the growth of its leather industry. Employment in Kenya’s leather industry is relatively low, with the informal sector accounting for 10,000 of the 14,000 workers.
In the footwear sub-sector, where competition is largely domestic and based on price, Kenya’s market share has been eroded by imports of new low-cost leather footwear, mainly from China and India, as well as second-hand footwear (mitumba).
It is 30 per cent more expensive to produce a pair of low-cost men’s leather shoes in Kenya at Sh900.44 than in Ethiopia whose low cost shoes are produced at Sh700.28.