The fresh political upheaval in Afghanistan threatens to wipe out Kenya’s trade with the Asian nation after nearly a decade of slump due to insurgency by the extremist Taliban.
Kenya’s exports to Afghanistan have been tumbling from highs of about Sh14 billion in 2012 to Sh3.6 billion last year, mainly on uncertainty after the US and Western allies gradually ceded control of the country’s security systems to the governments of Afghanistan’s two post-Taliban presidents, Hamid Karzai, and Ashraf Ghani.
The retaking of the Afghan capital, Kabul by the Taliban on Sunday — some 20 years since they were toppled from power by US-led forces in 2001– means that business is likely to be disrupted.
Kenya’s exports to Afghanistan have been declining significantly over the last five years as the US cut back its military presence in the Asian nation amid rising offensive by the Taliban.
Kenyan officials were, however, non-committal on the impact the Taliban power takeover would have on international trade.
“We don’t have a statement yet,” said Kenya’s Trade and Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina yesterday.
“We will issue a statement… It is self-evident.”
Kenya’s exports to Afghanistan include coffee, tea, mate, spices, pharmaceuticals, rubber, textile, edible vegetables, and machinery.
Tea accounts for an estimated 30 percent of Kenya’s exports to Afghanistan.
The decline in Kenya’s overall exports to Afghanistan coincided with an atmosphere of uncertainty regarding difficult security, political, and economic transitions which pervaded the country since the beginning of 2013.
Kenya exported goods worth Sh14.5 billion to the country in 2015, which declined by Sh4 billion to Sh10.68 billion in 2016.
The three years that followed (2017, 2018, and 2019) saw exports from Kenya to Afghanistan dip to Sh3.14 billion, Sh3.77 billion, and Sh3.6 billion respectively.
The uncertainty heightened during the highly contested presidential election of 2014, and then somewhat eased after the installation of the National Unity Government (NUG) of President Ashraf Ghani and his chief executive officer and rival Abdullah Abdullah.
Last year, Kenya’s exports to Afghanistan fell to Sh2.3 billion, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. Tea exports stood at 4.195 million kilogrammes, worth Sh902 million.
On Monday, the Taliban claimed victory in Afghanistan after taking over the capital Kabul, bringing to a swift end almost 20 years of the US-led coalition’s presence in the country.
The government collapsed, with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing and Taliban fighters seizing the presidential palace.