Exports to the United States (US) last year grew at the fastest pace in five years to hit a fresh high, making Washington the second biggest buyer of Kenyan goods after Uganda.
Earnings from goods ordered by the world’s largest economy increased by Sh4.51 billion, or 9.53 percent to stand at Sh51.85 billion, provisional trade data collated by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) shows.
The value of exports to the US, largely textile and apparels, overtook Pakistan, according to the CBK statistics, underlining improving trade ties between Nairobi and Washington.
Exports to Netherlands, mainly cut flowers, rose a measly 3.33 percent to Sh47.91 billion, while orders by Pakistan plunged Sh14.17 billion, or 23.86 percent, to Sh45.22 billion.
Islamabad in 2017 overtook Uganda, the US and the Netherlands to become the largest export market owing to increased orders for Kenya’s globally-acclaimed black tea of which the world’s six-most populous country remains the biggest buyer.
Pakistan’s imports from Kenya have since fallen from a record Sh64.06 billion in 2017 to Sh59.39 billion in 2018 on the back of economic instability.
This was sparked off by souring relations with Washington which hurt its currency against the US dollar resulting in rising inflation that reduced the purchasing power, Pakistan’s National Economic Council said last year.
That saw the Far East nation leapfrogged by Uganda in 2018 when orders from Kampala amounted to Sh61.86 billion (rising further to Sh63.65 billion in 2019), and has now also been overtaken by the US and Holland.
Kenyan exports to the US are largely under duty- and quota-free Africa Growth and Opportunity Opportunity Act (Agoa).
Nairobi and Washington in January opened talks over a bilateral trade deal, which will be used as a model for other African countries when the Agoa window shuts in five years.
President Donald Trump’s administration has been warming up to Nairobi since mid-2018 when Washington sent two high-powered delegation on trade and security for bilateral talks with authorities in Nairobi.