He acknowledged that the country has remained a net-importer of high value capital goods with a narrow export base comprising traditional exports mainly in raw form.
Speaking during the National Exporters Forum at Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), the President noted that the country’s exports last year were valued at Sh511 billion against Sh1.3 trillion worth of imports.
The Head of State told the forum, whose theme is “Anchoring Kenya as an Export Driven Economy”, that improving the country’s export performance and raising productivity across all sectors of the economy remains the only sustainable strategy for securing long-term success for the export sector.
“This theme also captures the spirit of the New Strategic Plan of the Export Promotion Council that lays emphasis on the regional markets as an avenue for quick wins in achieving a turnaround in export sector performance,” he stated.
“It is my hope that the deliberations of this forum will mark a milestone in the performance of our export sector,” he added.
Kibaki noted that the country’s export sector recorded a 24 percent growth last year but was slowed down by high prices of crude oil caused by external factors, high interest rates and inflation which led to low demand in export markets due to the recession in the world market.
The President implored the forum to come up with recommendations that will address the identified challenges and drive the export trade to greater heights.
As a booster to development of the export sector, Kibaki reaffirmed the government’s commitment to support establishment of an Export Development Fund and an endowment fund for sustainable funding of Export Promotion activities and creation of Credit Guarantee Schemes to reduce the high cost of credit to the business community, among other measures.
He confirmed that the government will continue to put in place measures geared towards faster growth of the economy and in export trade.
“These measures include development of infrastructure in areas such as construction of modern ports, rails, roads, as well as higher investment in telecommunication networks, information communication technology and related services” he revealed.
In addition to these measures, he said the government is investing heavily in production of greater quantity of energy as a key driver to accelerated economic growth in support of manufacturing for export markets.
Emphasizing that the judiciary was also making alternative approaches to dispute resolution which will enable speedy settlement of business disputes, the President exuded confidence that the measures adopted by the government would promote the growth of the country’s export sector.
He reminded the forum that export trade is critical to the economic development of countries like Korea, China, Thailand and Singapore and pointed out that Kenya must embrace an export-oriented growth strategy as a means to developing the economy and alleviating poverty.
“It is for the same reason that our Vision 2030 gives priority to the export trade as a key driver of the country’s economic development,” he said.
“Indeed, under the Economic Pillar of the vision, specific flagship projects are being implemented to facilitate rapid development of export trade,” he explained.
He emphasised that the implementation of the projects will attract strategic investors to boost agro-based industries and increased exports in new markets, strengthen Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to become the key industries of tomorrow by improving their productivity and innovation.
He added that this will boost science, technology and innovation in the sector by increasing investment in research and development.
Trade Minister Moses Wetangula said his ministry has formulated policies to create a conducive and competitive export environment.
Wetangula announced that the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has been extended to 2015 and he encouraged local exporters to take advantage of the extension of AGOA and export more apparel to the American Market.
Finance Minister Njeru Githae said his ministry is focusing on stabilizing the Kenya shilling to promote the export trade and he confirmed that they have adopted monetary policies geared towards lowering inflation to make it easy to do business in Kenya.