War-torn, poor, ravaged by drought and battling with terrorism, Somalia has defied all odds to slowly rise like the proverbial bird, Phoenix to become one of the biggest trade partners in Africa.
Somalia’s neighbor, Kenya is but rubbing its hands in glee about Somalia’s fortunes, Kenya has directly benefited from Somalia’s return to normalcy in terms of trade.
Somali shoot past Kenya’s traditional markets, Egypt, South Sudan and Rwanda to become one of the top buyers of Kenyan goods.
Exports to Somalia increased by 33.5 per cent in the first half of the year, making it the third largest destination for Kenya’s goods in Africa after other markets shrunk.
Exports grew to Sh10.71 billion in the first six months compared to Sh8.02 billion over the same period in 2016, according to data released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).
The main export to Somalia is khat which accounts for up to 90 per cent of the goods to Somalia.
Since Nairobi and Mogadishu resolved the numerous trade disputes surrounding miraa (khat), business has been good.
The recent Somali-Oromo conflict has also provided Kenyan khat farmers with unlikely boom.
The conflict has led to miraa shortage in Somaliland after Ethiopia which supplies most of the miraa consumed in Somaliland, and Djibouti got dragged into the conflict.
Kenyan miraa traders stepped in and have been ferrying tonnes of miraa to Somalia.
Since Netherlands and Britain, Kenya’s once biggest markets banned the crop, Somalia is currently the only biggest market for Kenya’s khat.
Kenyans farmers now desperately hope the tricky security situation in Somalia can remain stable.
The KNBS data shows that Kenya’s other export markets in Africa shrunk with performance of Uganda, the single-largest outlet for manufactured merchandise remaining flat at Sh30 billion.
Tanzania, usually Kenya’s second largest market in the continent, recorded a 32 per cent drop to Sh13.24 billion from Sh19.43 billion over the same period last year.
Similarly, export to Egypt dipped by 29 per cent in the first six months to Sh7.97 billion compared to Sh11.26 billion in 2016.
Kenya also recorded flat export growth to the landlocked war-torn South Sudan and DRC, which both rely on Mombasa port to connect with the rest of the world.
Overall, export to Africa dropped to Sh110.19 billion in the period compared to Sh121.14 billion by June 2016.