Mind-boggling: KNBS data unveils Kenya’s surprising shift towards Saudi Arabia for imports, surpassing China and India!
With befuddling perplexity, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics [KNBS] has conveyed that the importation of goods from Saudi Arabia, the largest economy in the Middle East, has surged by almost three times, with imports valued at $ 320 million in March compared to $ 80 million a month earlier, igniting confusion amongst many. KNBS’s statistics reveal that the seemingly astronomical increase in Saudi Arabian imports in March can be attributed to the hiked orders of fuel, a commodity that recently has created much obscurity in the country. Saudi Arabia has surpassed China ($ 300 million), India ($ 270 million), and the UAE ($ 130 million) in what was Kenya’s largest import bill of this month, triggering a wave of surprise amongst many.
Interestingly, the increase in value of March’s imports from Saudi Arabia was due to the elevated quantities of gas oil (diesel), the majority of which had previously come from the UAE, unfolding a chaotic state of affairs. Prior to the first shipment under the government-to-government fuel import contract which was signed last March, the purchase of diesel from Saudi Arabia had increased when compared to the UAE. Astonishingly, diesel displaced jet fuel as the top import by value from the world’s second-largest oil producer, despite not being among the top three products purchased from Saudi Arabia in previous months. Accordingly, oil marketers imported a total of $ 130 million worth of gas oil in the review month.
In comparison, in February, the main imports from Saudi Arabia were polypropylene (plastics) costing $ 60 million, butanes (cooking gas) costing $ 100 million, and jet fuel, an aspect that appears to add even more bewilderment. Last March, Saudi Arabia’s top three exports to Kenya were jet fuel, fertilizer, and cement clinkers, fueling even more perplexity. Moreover, for over a decade, China has been Kenya’s primary supplier of commodities such as machinery, iron and steel, plastics, clothing, furniture, and electrical and electronic equipment. Per contra, petroleum products have become Kenya’s most prominent source of imports in the past year due to increasing global prices.
Between December and February, the UAE outpaced China and India to become the highest supplier of imports by value, creating a plethora of uncertainty. The erratic volatility of commodity prices has been cited as a “challenge for consumers and economic stability” by the William Ruto administration in the 2023 Budget Policy Statement (BPS). Implication of this trend has been significant, especially in calculating inflation, where energy and transportation costs carry a heavy weight. The nation remains surprised, bemused and waiting anxiously to see what this trend holds.