A recent article by Paul Wafula in The Standard newspaper reveals a sad picture of how Kenya loses millions of jobs thanks to the huge number of goods and products the country imports when most of these can easily be produced locally and as a result not only promote local manufacturers but also create jobs for the scores of jobless youths.
SH800 BILLION SPENT ON IMPORTS
On average Kenya spends Sh100 billion per month on home-use imports which translates to six per cent of the country’s Sh1.6 trillion total spend. Last year, Kenya’s import bill soared to Sh800 billion.
The country is reported to have spent Sh74.5 billion to import paper since Webuye-based Pan Paper Mills closed down four years ago. This amount is eight times more the Sh9 billion debt the paper factory owes.
DOES KENYA NEED TO IMPORT MAIZE, WHEAT AND HONEY?
Even though petroleum products, machinery and transport equipment, electronics, motor vehicles, iron and steel and plastics have been Kenya’s major imports, the country keeps spending millions of shillings to import agricultural products like maize, rice, wheat and honey, all of which can be comfortably produced locally.
INDIA BIGGEST EXPORTER TO KENYA
India, China, UAE, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, United States and Japan are the biggest exporters to Kenya but India has managed to place it self as Kenya’s top source market for imports ahead of its Asian rivals China, and the United Arab Emirates.
According to the eleven-month data for 2012, published in the Leading Economic Indicators, the value of imports from India increased to Sh174.6 billion, way ahead of China’s Sh154.7 billion and the UAE’s Sh138.2 billion.
Importing goods unquestionably has its place in the Kenyan economy, including outsourcing products that are unique and of a higher quality, and achieving cheaper costs for other goods, but when a country imports more than it exports, that can be catastrophic for the economy.
IMPORTING CEMENT TO BUILD A MIDDLE-INCOME COUNTRY?
Local Manufacturers keep condemning the country’s devotion to imported goods at the expense of local industries but the trend still remains the same.
As noted by Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi “There are Chinese companies importing cement to construct our roads, yet we have local companies like East African Portland Cement. This must stop”, he says. Quite unbelievable, really!
Kenya’s import margins keep soaring as exports maintain a relative decline. The Kenya Forum hope this issue will be addressed sooner rather than later, if the country is still keen on attaining its Vision 2030 plans of becoming a middle-income economy.