Addressing the Third Kenya Trade Week at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), Nairobi, Dr Ruto noted that Kenya must “act early and decisively to claim a strong position” in the African Free Trade Area, a bloc of 1.3 billion people and $ 3.4 trillion.
“To achieve this, it is important to develop a national strategy to guide our approach and it is my hope that the Ministry of Trade is already engaged on this task,” said the Deputy President.
He told the Summit trade is a bedrock to the economic aspirations of the country, and as such, “it is vital that we explore all avenues to expand the reach and value of Kenyan products both within and without our borders.”
He further noted that it was through trade that Kenya, and Africa at large, would create jobs that is much needed for its growing population.
According to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, the country’s exports grew from Sh537 billion in 2014 to Sh613 billion in 2018, indicating a 14 per cent rise. During the same period, imports went up from Sh1.62 trillion in 2014 to Sh1.76 trillion in 2018, representing an 8.6 per cent.
The export volumes, Dr Ruto said, is far from its potential.
He observed that Kenya needs to up its export numbers so as to have a balanced trade.
In 2014, for instance, Kenya exported Sh537 billions’ worth of goods and services. In the same period, it brought in goods and services worth Sh1.62 trillion indicating a negative trade balance of Sh1.08 trillion.
Likewise, it exported goods and services worth Sh613 billion in 2018 but bought goods and services from foreign countries worth Sh1.76 trillion, showing a negative balance of trade of Sh1.12 trillion.
“From the foregoing, it is clear Kenya’s export numbers lag behind our true potential in the regional and global economic market and our expanding trade deficit reflects this state of affairs,” Dr Ruto argued.
So as to better its exports, the Summit heard that in partnership with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and Trade Mark East Africa, Kenya had developed the Intergrated National Export Development and Promotion Strategy.
From this grand plan, the Deputy President said, export share as a percentage of the gross domestic product would grow from eight per cent to 22 per cent.
To drive this growth, the strategy has identified eight key sectors: manufacturing, agriculture, livestock, fisheries, trade in services, emerging sectors such as oil and gas, handicrafts and cross-cutting issues which are grouped as a sector.
Dr Ruto said the implementation of the strategy needs to be carried out with urgency and diligence.