Kenya's trade with African nations has flourished, with earnings from exports exceeding expenditure on imports by a record Sh164.04 billion in 2023.

This news, based on provisional data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), strengthens the government's push for deeper market integration across the continent.

The value of Kenyan goods sold to other African countries surged by 22.99 per cent last year, reaching Sh431.89 billion compared to Sh351.16 billion in 2022.

This positive trend coincided with a minimal rise in import expenditure, which grew by a mere 0.31 per cent to Sh267.86 billion.

The significant increase in the trade surplus – nearly doubling (94.98 per cent) from Sh84.13 billion in 2022 – can be attributed to the relatively flat import figures.

This marks the slimmest rise in import value since the decline caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

An analysis of key economic indicators for 2023 suggests that Kenyan exports benefited from a surge in demand for specific products.

Cement clinkers, lubricants, wheat flour, food preparations, and re-exports of kerosene-type jet fuel all saw a significant rise in demand from African nations.

Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Egypt, Somalia, and South Sudan were identified as major contributors to this increased demand.

President William Ruto has been a vocal advocate for removing trade barriers within Africa. He believes that integrating regional trading blocs will facilitate the movement of goods, services, and labour across the continent.

This vision aligns with the ambitious African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which aims to create the world's largest single market.

With an estimated population of 1.4 billion people and a combined economic output exceeding $3 trillion (approximately Sh474 trillion based on current conversion rates), the AfCFTA presents a significant opportunity for economic growth across Africa.