Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Matthew A. Winkler

Kenya Gleams on Africa's Bright Side

The oil-price crash clobbered the continent, but a few economies have made it work for them.
Looking up.
Photographer: TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

There’s been nothing but trouble for much of Africa as the price of oil plummeted 55 percent during the past two and a half years. But there’s a brighter side to the sub-Saharan continent. Unlike Nigeria, where oil accounts for more than 90 percent of exports, or South Africa, which never recovered from the 2008 financial crisis amid weak global demand for commodities, Kenya, the No. 3 economy measured by gross domestic product, is turning the oil debacle into a bonanza.

That’s because Kenya, like its East African neighbors Ethiopia and Tanzania, is making lower energy prices a relative strength. Kenya’s refined petroleum products almost tripled to 12 percent of exports from 4.5 percent in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Agriculture, including tea, flowers, coffee and legumes, still represents the biggest share at more than 30 percent. Refined petroleum and related exports, meanwhile, have become the fastest-growing and second-largest share of what the country sells outside its borders.