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Kenya has emerged a distribution hub and commercial powerhouse in the East African region...
Kenya has further consolidated its status as the gateway to East Africa and a leading trade hub in the region. The country tops the list of highest exporting countries in the 19-member COMESA trading bloc, emerging as the top performer in the regional East African market.
In recent years, Kenya has also been labelled as a viable business hub in the East African region and many foreign companies have set up assembly plants in Kenya to penetrate the lucrative markets in the region. By manufacturing in Kenya, the businesses are able to transport their goods within COMESA member countries without paying taxes, thereby adding to their profit margins.
Several Asian manufacturers, predominantly from India and kenya exhibitionChina, have established warehouses in Kenya where they send the semi-finished goods to, and then use EAC trade protocols to move them around East African countries like Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. In such a scenario, many local manufacturers have blamed the government for not devising appropriate policies to protect the local manufacturing sector from unfair competition.
Competition from overseas investors and businesses is forcing local businesses in Kenya to reduce their profit margins in order to stay competitive in the price-sensitive markets of East Africa. By offering better products and lower prices, these new businesses are challenging the monopoly of many well- established businesses in Kenya.
Last year, Kenya imported goods valued at $200 million and re-exported goods worth $520 million. Egypt came in second, exporting goods worth $490 million and importing from other COMESA member states goods valued at $180 million. Zambia ranked third, selling goods worth $300 million and re-exporting products valued at $100 million. It however, bought an equally higher amount worth $290 million.
Zimbabwe, the southern African country currently facing a major economic crisis, came fourth exporting goods worth $170 million and re-exporting $120 million worth of goods. It also imported semi and finished products from other member states valued at approximately $430 million.
The landlocked country of Uganda led in the category of countries with the highest imports, buying from other members states products worth $70 million, and is closely followed by Sudan, which imports goods worth $65 million.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, emerging from years of turmoil, came in third importing products worth $60 million, Zambia $30 million, followed by Ethiopia, which imported goods valued at $21 million.
Oil exporting economies have been witnessing the highest growth, with Sudan’s economy growing at approximately 11 per cent in 2007. Non-oil economies exporting mineral and metal commodities also witnessed strong growth.
As a result, Kenya has become a focus of attention for international businesses looking to penetrate the emerging markets of East Africa.
July 12 2011
Coffee farmers may earn more this year following a 31 per cent leap in the value of the commodity sold at the weekly auction in the first seven months this season.
Statistics by the Kenya Coffee Traders Association (KCTA) showed that beans worth $146 million (Sh14.3 billion) was sold at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange between October 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011 compared to $111.7 million (Sh10.9 billion) fetched over a similar period the previous year. With five more months to the close of the current season, industry players anticipate higher earnings compared to the 2009/10 season when the industry fetched Sh16 billion.
"The market has been behaving well and we expected better than what we earned last year," John Kimani said by phone
Dealers attributed the climb in earnings to rising demand coupled with strong global prices of the commodity.KCTA said the volume of beans sold in the period between October 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011 dropped 10.5 per cent to 362,154 60-kg bags compared to 404,855 kg over a similar window of the previous crop year.
This year's coffee marketing window has suffered supply hitches that has seen the auction twice suspended due to lack of beans. Traders mainly blamed the development on premature flowering of crop from the last season. Traditionally, coffee volumes at auction surge around March but they peaked earlier this year after Kenya experienced unusually heavy rains in the first months of last year. Because of the unpredictable weather, coffee bushes flowered when they should not and produced coffee berries at different stages of maturity.
The country's coffee marketing season typically breaks around July-August but had to be suspended earlier in March after the volume of crop offered for sale at the weekly NCE dropped to average 15,000-20,000 bags per auction against an optimal 30,000 bags.
A scheduled re-opening on June 14 was also deferred to June 28 due to cold weather that affected the drying of beans. Trading at the auction remains shaky owing to the current spell of cold. Last week officials at the NCE were forced to skip an auction following concerns over volumes. Officials expect normal trading to resume today.Agriculture permanent secretary, Romano Kiome last month said coffee export earnings are expected to rise by between five and 10 per cent in the 2010/11 season, thanks to good prices and improved output.
The Coffee Research Foundation (CRF) however warned early this month that an attack by the Thrips pest may affect this year's crop and cut output.
The agency also warned that attacks by the green scales infestation and Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR) disease are also likely to increase. The country's coffee crop is susceptible to pests and to diseases such as Coffee Berry which attacks during the June-July window when temperatures are low. Records showed that in the 2007/08 crop year, a major bout of the Coffee Berry Disease cut Kenya's output by 23 per cent to 42,000 tonnes.
Nairobi — Athman Ali, a young ICT wizard, demonstrates how easily Kenyans can now get information at their finger tips, about the location and quality of schools, clinics and other public facilities, using the Internet and mobile phones.
Andrew Munde, a scientist from the International Livestock Research Institute, showcases the link between data on livestock vulnerability in Kenya's arid areas and an innovative insurance scheme that compensates farmers for livestock losses during harsh times.
The power of data, using the web and mobile phone applications, is rapidly transforming the lives of citizens in Kenya's rural and urban areas by empowering them to make choices on critical issues such as where to take their children to school, the nearest clinics offering immunizations, and government spending on vital, local infrastructure such as water and electricity.
Enabling citizen participation
Kenya's drive to become a knowledge economy and empower its citizens through open data moved a notch higher July 8 with the official launch of an open government web portal, www.opendata.go.ke. The site enables the public to access several large government datasets, including the national census, and statistics on government spending at national and county levels.
"The Government data website will be particularly useful to policy makers and business persons who require timely and accurate information in formulating policies and making business decisions," said President Mwai Kibaki, who clicked the button on July 8 in Nairobi to launch the portal. "It will also be helpful to scholars and students undertaking research work in various areas of the public sector."
Moreover, the portal will enable citizens to hold the government accountable for the use of public resources, Kibaki said, underlining his government's commitment to facilitate the free flow and access to information as a critical requirement for the creation of an open society in line with Kenya's new constitution.
Data for development
Kenya's open data, one of the first and the largest government data portals in Africa, provides unlimited access to researchers, web and software developers, journalists, students, civil society and the general public via the Internet and mobile phone platforms. An estimated 11.5 million Kenyans, over 28 percent of the population, use the Internet while 25 million, or over 80 percent of the adult population, uses mobile phones.
Ali, a recipient of an April 2011 World Bank Apps for Development Competition award for creating innovative software applications, is one of several young ICT whizzes who is manipulating data to communicate easily with the public on important development issues-public policy, distribution of resources, education and health care, equity and others. Through Ali's application, users can generate maps and other visualizations and directly download underlying data for their own uses.
The data on the Kenya government portal is drawn from several sources, including the ministries of Finance, Planning, Health and Education, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, and the World Bank. It is powered by Socrata www.socrata.com and other partners including private web and software developers.
The Bank, which is supporting Kenya's ICT developed through a US$114.4 million Transparency and Communications Infrastructure Project, launched its open data in April 2010, providing free, open and easy access to statistics and indicators about development for all users through a its portal data.worldbank.org. Knowledge, together with finance and strategic partnerships, are the key elements of the Bank's engagement in Africa, which supports job creation and global competiveness.
"Open data will help to bring about open development, and this in turn, over time, will result in higher social, political and economic returns for the country-increasing job creation and accelerating Kenya's transformation to a knowledge economy," said Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Kenya. The Bank's open data, he said, has awakened "open development" and since the launch last year, users of its development data have increased four-fold.
Kenya, a leader in ICT for development
Kenya has established a powerful lead in ICT and mobile applications, including the M-pesa mobile money transfer system. With the launch of its government open data site, Kenya joins the Open Government Partnership-a new global movement to be launched by the governments of the United States and Brazil in July 2011. Kenya's officials leading the ICT initiative, including Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary for Information and Communications, have been invited to the event at the White House.
According to Ndemo, more government agencies are expected to upload data on the new portal and the information will be updated regularly to remain relevant. This will increase the transparency and accountability of the government to its citizens and influence issue-based politics. A Freedom of Information bill is also in the pipeline.
The government, through the Kenya ICT Board, will give grants to support the development of useful and relevant, innovative high-impact web and mobile applications to enhance the use of data on the new portal.