Maina Waruru | 19 Jun, 2013
India, which has a thriving diaspora in Kenya estimated at
100,000, became the East African nation's biggest trading partner in Asia in
2012, surpassing China, a government document says.
India exported to Kenya goods worth $240 million, way ahead of Asia's biggest
economy China, which exported goods valued at $148 million.The figure
represents a growth of around 30 percent when compared to 2011.
The figures, according to Kenya's National Economic Survey 2013, represented 18
percent of Kenya's imports in 2012, asserting India's growing influence in the
east African region.
Exports to Kenya, according to Indian High Commissioner Sibabrata Tripathi,
included petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, electrical machinery, steel
products, hand and machine tools, yarn, vehicles and paper.
Kenya, on the other hand, exported soda ash, coffee, leather, vegetables,
synthetic fibers, wool, cereals and metal scrap to India.
While the figures seem impressive for a small economy like Kenya, with a
population of 40 million, Tripathi said they represented less than one percent
of India's total global exports.
"A number of factors contribute to the growing trade between India and
Kenya. Relative proximity of the two countries, particularly of ports on the
west coast of India, and the quality of Indian products at an affordable cost
are among the major factors," the high commissioner said.
"Close attention is paid by Indian exporters to the specificities of the
Kenyan market. The commonality of business language in the two countries also
helps," added Tripathi. Much of the Indian diaspora has its origins in
Gujarat and Punjab.
He said Kenya was emerging as a market for Indian tour operators, with some
60,000 of the one million tourists who visited Kenya in 2011 being from India,
compared to 47,000 in 2010.
The growth has been spurred by increased direct flights between Delhi/Mumbai
and Nairobi, with Kenya Airways and Emirates operating regular flights on these
"The wildlife safaris of Kenya are increasingly becoming an attractive
destination for Indian tourists since they have remained relatively unexplored
so far", Tripathi told IANS.
There was also growing Indian interest in Kenya as an investment destination in
areas like communications, petroleum refining, floriculture and medical
Already some 40 Indian firms, including a bank, are operating in Kenya, using
the country as a launch pad to the 100 million strong East African Community
and the wider Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA).
Among the major companies operating in Kenya are Tata Chemicals, which owns
Magadi Soda Ash Company, oil firm Essar and Airtel. The Bank of India has four
branches in Kenya.
A major Indian hospital was also planning to open a diagnostic facility in
Nairobi, which could cut down on visits to Indian hospitals by Kenyans seeking
Kenya and the East African region have benefited greatly from Indian education,
with thousands of students going through Indian universities via scholarships
since the 1960s, a trend that picked in the 1980s.