DRC now Kenya’s fastest growing EAC export front

Wheat

There was an increase in domestic exports of wheat flour to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has overtaken Uganda to become Kenya's fastest-growing export market within the East African Community, new data shows, despite frosty diplomatic relations between Nairobi and Kinshasa.

Kenya’s exports to the Great Lakes Region nation jumped by more than half (56.04 per cent) to Sh8.62 billion in the first three months of the year, according to the latest official data, the biggest year-on-year growth in over a decade.

“Notably, there was increased domestic exports of …wheat flour to Democratic Republic of Congo,” the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics wrote in the latest balance of payment report, covering the first quarter of 2024.

Analysis of the KNBS data shows quarterly exports to Africa’s second-largest country by land mass have remained elevated above Sh7 billion since July last year when Kenya cut import duty on wheat imports from 35 per cent to 10 per cent.

Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for National Treasury said last year the reduced taxes, which have been maintained for the current year ending June 2025, were aimed at ensuring “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 Kenyan traders trucked goods worth nearly Sh23.88 billion in the first nine months ended March 2024 since the reduced duty on wheat took effect, a significant 57.48 per cent climb over Sh15.16 billion previously.

KNBS also cited wheat flour as the main driver of demand for exports in the second half of last year. DRC’s increased imports come on the back of frosty diplomatic relationship between the two countries.

Kinshasa recalled its ambassador to Nairobi last December in the heat of disagreements over Kenya’s “hosting” of Congolese opposition figures, who launched a party in Nairobi and later professed support for the rebel group M23, which has been fighting government forces and their allies in the eastern region of the country.

It was not until May that the DRC envoy to Kenya resumed duties after President William Ruto sent a delegation to Kinshasa, led by Prime Cabinet Secretary and Secretary for Foreign Affairs Musalia Mudavadi.

Despite growing at the steepest pace, DRC still trailed the other EAC destinations for Kenya’s goods except Burundi, one of the world’s poorest countries.

DRC’s share of Kenya’s exports to the regional bloc, however, hit double-digit levels in the review quarter, rising to 10.74 per cent from 7.96 percent.

Uganda remained the biggest buyer of Kenya’s goods in the region despite growing a modest 7.39 per cent to Sh33.34 billion.