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International Trade

Kenya has followed a mixed economy development strategy since independence. While the respective roles of the public and private sectors have evolved over time, the country has experienced remarkable continuity in its underlying economic development strategy. However, there is a shift recently in emphasis from public to private investment. In this context, market-based reforms have been introduced and incentives for both local and foreign private investments provided.


Exports from Kenya enjoy preferential access to world markets under a number of special access and duty reduction programmes. Kenya is signatory to various agreements aimed at enhancing trade amongst member states.

Multilateral Trade System (MTS)
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only international organisation dealing with the global rules of trade between nations. The overriding objective of the WTO is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, freely and predictably as possible. Kenya has been a member of the WTO since its inception in January 1995. www.wto.org

Regional Markets
Kenya is a member of the East African Community (EAC) with an estimated population of about 124 million. It is also a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) with an estimated population of about 400 million. Exports and imports within member countries enjoy preferential tariff rates. EAC Member States have signed a Protocol to establish a Customs Union.


The aims and objectives of COMESA have been designed so as to remove the structural and institutional weaknesses in the member States by pooling their resources together in order to sustain their development efforts either individually or collectively. The COMESA agenda is to deepen and broaden the integration process among member States through the adoption of more comprehensive trade liberation measures such as the complete elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and elimination of customs duties. Some Member States have already signed a Free Trade Area protocol, and the rest are working towards this goal. Efforts are at advanced stage to establish a Common External Tariff (CET). COMESA headquarters are located in the city of Lusaka, Zambia. www.comesa.int

  • EAC

The East African Community is the regional intergovernmental organization of the Republics of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, with headquarters located in Arusha, Tanzania. The Community was formerly established on November 30, 1999 through signatures of Heads of State and Governments of the three countries. The EA countries cover an estimated area of 1.8 million square kilometres and have a population of slightly above 80 million people, sharing common history, language, culture and infrastructure. These advantages provide the Partner States with a unique framework for regional co-operation and integration. www.eac.int

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