BrandKE, known in full as the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency, is a state corporation whose core mandate is to implement export promotion and nation branding initiatives. Established in 2019 following the merger between the Export Promotion Council and the Brand Kenya Board, the agency falls under the Ministry of Industrialization and is a key pillar in the government’s strategy to increase the value and volume of Kenyan exports.
Through sensitization and promotion, BrandKE has helped drive the widespread adoption of the “Made in Kenya” brand mark in the private sector. Launched in 2018, the “Made in Kenya” brand mark helps identify and authenticate locally produced goods and services in local and global markets. It is a powerful visual symbol and registered trademark that qualifying firms can apply on packaging, websites, social media, and advertising.
BrandKE has created compelling incentives to encourage Kenyan firms to apply for the “Made in Kenya” brand mark. This includes access to government procurement opportunities for firms that use the “Made in Kenya” trademark. Section 155 of the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act 2015 gives preference to locally produced goods and services in the public procurement process. However, before the “Made in Kenya” brand mark was launched, there was no standardized way of procuring entities to identify locally produced goods and services.
Accelerating export performance
Earnings from Kenya’s total exports grew for the second consecutive year to Ksh743.7 billion in 2021, the Economic Survey 2022 shows. This growth was fueled by exports of horticultural products, apparel, titanium ore and concentrates, which all benefited from the general increase in commodity prices in 2021.
Despite this strong export performance, Kenya’s imports have been growing at a faster pace than exports. The Economic Survey 2022 indicates that expenditure on imports rose by 30.9 per cent to KSh 2.15 trillion in 2021, largely on account of increased expenditure on petroleum products, iron and steel, animal fats and oils, and vehicles.
BrandKE’s mandate to accelerate export performance has never been more relevant considering the imbalance between imports and exports. When a country’s imports grow faster than exports, it introduces several economic and financial risks. It, for example, imperils local industries, as is the currently the case for a cross-section of local firms that are being edged out of the market by cheaper Chinese and Indian imports. Faster growth in imports relative to exports also leads to the weakening of the local currency as imports are usually settled in foreign currency, leading to the selling, and subsequent weakening, of the shilling.
Against this backdrop, BrandKE has been working on different initiatives to accelerate Kenyan exports. One initiative worth highlighting is BrandKE’s use of digital technology to accelerate the adoption of e-commerce channels among exporters. BrandKE is finalizing an e-commerce platform that will list Kenyan products that meet export standards. The platform, which is set to be launched later in 2022, will link Kenyan exporters to buyers from across the world, opening up new opportunities.
BrandKE has also helped broker bilateral trade deals targeting high potential sectors of the economy. One such deal is the recommencement of livestock exports to Oman after a 16-year ban. The livestock sector has previously been affected by the rampant cases of foot and mouth disease. However, the government has empowered the Kenya Veterinary Vaccine Production Institute which will provide farmers with cheaper vaccines to ensure disease-free livestock for export.
The move to recommence meat exports to Oman comes at a time when countries in the gulf region have stepped up their importation of Kenyan meat and meat products. “Kenya’s top importers of meat and meat products are from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region,” said BrandKE CEO, Dr. Wilfred Marube. The GCC Countries include the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar as well as the State of Kuwait.
Shinning at the Dubai Expo
BrandKE was also at the forefront in ensuring Kenya’s successful participation in the Expo Dubai 2020. Kenya was among the 192 countries that attended the expo, which ran from October 2021 to March 2022.
The Kenya stand is estimated to have received at least 7.5 million visitors during the expo, with the average number of visitors reaching up to 3000 per day, according to government data. Kenya’s participation in the Expo 2020 Dubai is projected to have added $1.5 billion in immediate value to the economy through business leads in investments, tourism, and exports, BrandKE noted.
Agriculture is one of the sectors expected to benefit the most from Kenya’s participation in the Dubai Expo. “The UAE and GCC is an area we want to get the maximum benefit of export. They are net importers of foods and Kenya is a high producer of agriculture products,” Dr. Marube noted.
The Dubai Expo also presented an unparallel platform for business matchmaking, with BrandKE unveiling a Business to Business (B2B) mobile and online application to facilitate this. The app enabled Kenyan participants to conveniently and cost effectively showcase their businesses, connect, and network with international buyers, and schedule meetings.
The Dubai Expo is just one of the many trade summits that BrandKE leverages on to drive visibility for Kenyan enterprises and spur trade and investment. The agency has historically organized dozens of local trade summits focusing on different themes and facilitated the participation of Kenyan businesses and government agencies in similar summits abroad.
BrandKE has also been at the forefront of transforming the image of the public service. The BrandKE Board has developed a Public Service Branding Manual to unify the image of the entire public service and address prevailing challenges that paint public service as slow, vague, non-committal, and in the process enhance public service delivery. As the custodian of Kenya’s international image, BrandKE continues to play an indispensable role in the transformation of Kenya, in line with the aspirations of the Vision 2030 development blueprint.