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DRC overtakes Uganda as Kenya's fastest-growing export market in EAC bloc

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Despite strained diplomatic relations between Nairobi and Kinshasa, Kenya's exports to the DRC surged by 56.04 per cent to Sh8.62 billion in the first quarter of 2024, the highest year-on-year growth in over a decade.

Despite strained diplomatic relations between Nairobi and Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has emerged as Kenya's fastest-growing export market within the East African Community (EAC) bloc, according to new data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

Kenya's exports to the DRC surged by 56.04 per cent to Sh8.62 billion in the first quarter of 2024, the highest year-on-year growth in over a decade. This significant increase is attributed to the reduced import duty on wheat from 35 to 10 per cent, implemented in July last year.

"Notably, there was increased domestic exports of wheat flour to Democratic Republic of Congo," the KNBS reported.

Kenya's Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Njuguna Ndung'u, stated that the reduced taxes aimed to ensure "that there is enough wheat to meet local demand, while at the same time protecting wheat farmers from unfair competition from imported wheat."

The data shows that Kenyan traders exported goods worth nearly Sh23.88 billion in the first nine months of March 2024, a significant 57.48 per cent climb over Sh15.16 billion.

The increased imports by the DRC came despite frosty diplomatic relations between the two countries, which were strained over Kenya's "hosting" of Congolese opposition figures and support for the rebel group M23.

While the DRC's share of Kenya's exports to the EAC bloc hit double-digit levels, rising to 10.74 per cent from 7.96 per cent, Uganda remained the biggest buyer of Kenya's goods in the region, despite growing at a modest 7.39 per cent to Sh33.34 billion.

Increased demand

This growth was primarily driven by increased demand for products such as carboys, bottles, flasks, and similar articles, according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

However, this growth was lower than the previous year's 49.62 per cent increase to Sh31.05 billion from Sh20.75 billion in the first quarter of 2022.

Furthermore, Uganda's share of exports to the EAC bloc decreased to 41.56 per cent from 44.77 per cent in the previous year.

The EAC trading bloc, comprising seven member states, has persistently grappled with intermittent trade disputes, hindering intra-regional trade growth despite being Africa's most integrated region.

The EAC Customs Union Protocol, implemented in 2005, aimed to facilitate the free movement of goods, services, capital, and labour within the bloc, but its impact has been curtailed by these trade tiffs.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), Tanzania's imports from Kenya increased by 18.01 per cent to Sh16.74 billion during the review period, while South Sudan's imports rose by 25.69 per cent to Sh9.27 billion, driven primarily by household washing machines.

South Sudan's share of Kenya's exports to the EAC bloc marginally increased to 11.56 per cent. In contrast, Tanzania's share remained largely unchanged, with re-exports of kerosene-type jet fuel being a significant contributor.

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