Kenya's trade surplus with Africa has risen at the fastest pace in six years, boosting the country’s renewed push for the integration of trading blocs on the continent.
The gap between exports and imports widened to KSh88.3 billion ($667.9 million) last year from KSh80.49 billion ($608.82 million) the year before, marking the highest value since 2016 when it hit KSh94.41 billion ($714.12 million).
Provisional data by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) shows that traders earned Ksh355.43 billion ($2.69 billion) from exports to African countries in 2022 against an expenditure of KSh267.13 billion ($2.02 billion).
This has come at a time Kenya’s President William Ruto has directed the country’s Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria to take a proactive role in lobbying countries in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa to sign and ratify a proposed tripartite agreement.
The proposed free trade area for members of the East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been on the table since June 2015.
Signatures dragging the progress
However, progress in creating a market of more than 750 million people has been dragged by failure to get the minimum 14 signatures to enforce the deal.
Some of the key economies yet to sign the proposed tripartite trade deal are South Africa, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mauritius.
“We hope to achieve the remaining signatures by April. Only three countries remain, and we have a commitment for nine. With this, we will do business with South Africa the same way as we do it with Tanzania," Ruto said on February 20.
Kenya is championing the removal of trade barriers among African countries to ease the movement of goods, services and labour through the integration of regional trading blocs.
The country on June 8, 2018 led from the front by presenting documents ratifying the proposed Comesa-EAC-SADC tripartite free trade area, which will bring together 27 countries to the Comesa secretariat.