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An export guide to transporting cargo from Kenya [Updated: Nov 2021]

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Updated on 23 Nov 20219 min read

Kenya is a country in East Africa famed for its scenic landscapes and vast wildlife preserves. Its Indian Ocean coast has provided historically important ports by which goods from traders worldwide have entered the continent for many centuries.

This guide will go through some important aspects of shipping from Kenya, such as customs processes, documentation, and tax regulations.

What are Your Options for Shipping Freight From Kenya?

Shipping from Kenya can be done either via ocean freight or air freight.

Ocean Freight From Kenya

Ocean freight from Kenya is your first option for transport. You can choose to ship by sea via less than container load or full container load. Less than container load is best for small cargo. Here, your goods will be consolidated with consignment from other sellers and shipped together in one container. Hence, it’s an economical choice, but the shipping duration can be prolonged to give way to the consolidation process.

On the other hand, full container load is a faster but more expensive mode of ocean freight. Here, your goods will be shipped in isolation without the need to go through consolidation. This mode of ocean freight is best for large, heavy, bulky, and delicate cargo.

Air Freight From Kenya

You can also ship to another country from Kenya by means of air freight. Shipping by air is a relatively faster process but can be more expensive because of the fuel and flight costs. There are also limitations in shipping via air freight, such as the weight and dimensions of your cargo, among others. However, it remains to be a good alternative to ship small and light freight to your destination country.

How Much Does it Cost to Ship Cargo From Kenya?

The cost of shipping cargo from Kenya depends on factors such as:

  • The type of goods you are shipping
  • Your chosen mode of shipment (ocean freight or air freight)
  • The weight and volume of your cargo
  • The size/ dimensions of your cargo
  • The distance between Kenya and your destination country
  • Specific movement types, i.e. door-to-door, port-to-door, door-to-port, port-to-port

Your freight forwarder can provide you with a more accurate estimate.

How Long Does it Take to Ship Cargo From Kenya?

The duration of your shipment would depend on factors such as your chosen mode of shipment, whether your route is direct or has multiple stops and the distance between Kenya and your country of destination. Here are some estimated transit times for shipping cargo from Kenya.

Ocean Freight From Kenya

Destination Country Transit Time LCL Transit Time FCL
Saudi Arabia 21 days

Air Freight From Kenya

Destination Country **Transit Time **
UK 10 days
USA 10 days

Exporting from Kenya

Requirements for Exporting

Clearing Agent

The exporter will need to acquire the services of a licensed customs clearing agent. A clearing agent is mandated to process the exportation documents in the customs system and assist in clearing goods on your behalf.

Export Levy

Some select items attract an export levy as outlined in the first schedule of the Fees and Levies Act of 2016.

Documents Required in Clearance of Exported Goods

To clear any exported goods requires the engagement of a licensed customs clearing agent. When engaging with your preferred clearing agent ensure you always provide exportation documents including but not limited to:

  • A valid Commercial Invoice;
  • Certificate of origin
  • Permit/License for restricted goods
  • Personal or Taxpayer Identification Number (PIN certificate)
  • Purchase Orders/Contracts
  • Packing List

The customs clearing agent is then allowed to declare the goods you are exporting in the customs system by creating an entry).

Goods Clearance Process

1. Entry Declaration and Processing

The appointed clearing agent should make a customs declaration entry in accordance with the provisions of Section 73 of the East Africa Community Customs Management Act 2004. Customs will process all valid declarations.

2. Stuffing, Verification, and Release

The agent should present the original entry and supporting documents to the customs discharge/loading station for processing (witness of stuffing/verification may be done at the station or any other approved stuffing area).

3. Exit

Upon stuffing/verification, all valid declarations are cleared and released. Upon exit through the border or port, a certificate of export is issued.

Shipping From Kenya: FCL or LCL?

If you choose ocean freight to ship cargo from Kenya, you will need to make a decision whether to ship with FCL or LCL. To help you choose wisely, here are some pointers to consider:

Less than Container Load from Kenya

Less than container load is a good shipping option for you if your cargo is:

  • Small in size and quantity
  • Suitable for consolidation with cargo from other sellers
  • Not expected in your destination country at a specified time
  • Suitable for frequent handling and movement
  • Not perishable, fragile, or delicate

Full Container Load from Kenya

Full container load shipping is best for the following types of cargo:

  • Large, bulky, and oversized
  • Better of shipped in isolation
  • Expected in your destination country at a specified time
  • Not suitable for frequent handling and movement
  • Perishable, fragile, or delicate

Top Cargo Ports in Kenya

The Port of Mombasa is the key entry and exit point for cargo belonging to a vast hinterland that includes Kenya, Uganda Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, South Sudan, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

Cargo Airports in Kenya

The top airports for cargo traffic are as follows:

  1. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi)
  2. Moi International Airport (Mombasa)
  3. Moi International Airport (Eldoret)( not for formal customs processes)

Top Commodities Exported from Kenya (2019)

  1. Tea (18.1%)
  2. Cut Flowers (9.85%)
  3. Refined Petroleum (6.46%)
  4. Coffee (3.57%)
  5. Titanium Ore (2.29%)

Top Tradelanes from Kenya

  1. China (23.9%)
  2. United Arab Emirates (9.73%)
  3. India (9.72%)
  4. Saudi Arabia (6.82%)
  5. Japan (4.85%)

Economic Map of Kenya

Map of Kenya

Source: Kenya Economic Map

E-commerce in Kenya

Kenya has one of the most vibrant e-commerce ecosystems in Africa and has shown steady growth. Exact data and statistics are lacking but revenue in the Kenyan e-commerce market is expected to result in approximate market volume of USD $2 billion by 2024 (Statista). During the COVID-19 lockdown period even more businesses have decided to open up online shops and it is expected that e-commerce in Kenya will further accelerate and grow.

Cross-border vs. domestic e-commerce in Kenya

Cross-border e-commerce

There is a large appetite for products that are not accessible within Kenya. These products are mainly ordered via e-commerce platforms such as eBay, AliExpress, and Amazon. Also export in Kenya via e-commerce is popular, there is especially a large appetite from Europe and Asia for authentic African products, predominantly sold via eBay.

Domestic e-commerce

The domestic e-commerce ecosystem has been steadily growing the last couple of years, attracting more local players — think of marketplaces adapting to the local context, but also traditional brick and mortar businesses are becoming active with e-commerce.

E-commerce however has been a challenging space in Kenya due to infrastructure gaps and customer reluctance. Physical goods need to be delivered, which require logistic infrastructure. This logistic infrastructure is lacking, making e-commerce restricted to larger cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa. E-commerce focused on selling local products like FMCG is also facing fierce competition from informal retailers and markets in Kenya.

Apart from the difference between cross-border and domestic there is a difference between B2B and B2C e-commerce, whereby B2B has taken the lead in Kenya the last couple of years. Domestic players such as Twiga Foods, a marketplace for suppliers and vendors, Sokowatch, a stock solution provider for informal retailers and cross-border e-commerce players such as Alibaba and AliExpress.

B2C is catching up with B2B and it is expected that a lot more will happen in this space in the coming years. Domestic players such as Copia, Sky Garden, Kilimall and Africa Sokoni, and Jumia are transforming the space. All these players are active in Nairobi and most of them in large cities such as Mombasa and Kisumu. Some of these players also target rural areas.

E-commerce is popular among millennials, cities, and certain products. Data from Jumia Kenya from September 2019 shows that the largest group of e-commerce shoppers is 25-34 living in larger cities such as Nairobi.

The top three products in e-commerce

  • FMCG
  • Electronics
  • Fashion

What are the drivers for e-commerce in Kenya?

Mobile connectivity improves access to the internet

In Kenya, more than four million people became connected to the mobile internet between 2014 and 2017, increasing adoption from 16% to 24%. According to The Mobile Economy 2019 report by GSMA, this growth was due to performance on two enablers: infrastructure and affordability.

The former was driven by improved network coverage, with 3G increasing from 67% in 2014 to 85% in 2017, and 4G reaching more than a third of the population.

Online payments to facilitate transactions

Debit and credit cards such as Mastercard and Visa have low penetration in the Kenyan market, so the most popular domestic methods of payments for e-commerce are:

  • M-Pesa
  • Airtel Money
  • T-Kash
  • Equitel

According to the Communications Authority (CA), Kenyans performed 425.3 million mobile commerce transactions between July and September 2019. Although online payment infrastructure is in place, with several payment gateways providing solutions for e-commerce players to accept payments online, cash should not be underestimated. Companies selling online often accept cash on delivery as a payment option.

Future growth of e-commerce in Kenya and Africa

To accelerate the future growth of e-commerce in Kenya there are four key bottlenecks that need to be overcome:

  • Trust among consumers
  • Lack of reliable data
  • High shipping and delivery cost
  • High import duties among East African borders regarding clearance, fees, taxes.

Opportunities are not only in Kenya. According to Brookings, intra-African trade is only 17% compared to 59% in Asia and 69% in Europe. The implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is expected to boost intra-Africa trade by up to 52%, by eliminating import duties and reducing other barriers to trade.

Although the uptake of e-commerce in Kenya has remained relatively low in comparison to more developed countries in the past, the expectation is that e-commerce in Kenya will further advance and develop its own model based on the characteristics and demand of the market. Kenya’s e-commerce ecosystem will be interesting to watch in the coming years.

Ocean and Air Shipping From Kenya: Why Choose Shipa Freight?

If you are planning to ship cargo from Kenya, you need to work with a freight forwarder that knows all the ins and outs of international shipping and can offer you the utmost convenience throughout the process.

Shipa Freight is your reliable freight forwarder that offers you the traditional freight forwarding services at the convenience of modern technology. Our digital platform allows you to manage and track your shipment at the convenience of your smartphone. Get started with a more seamless shipping process with us today.