Kenyans living abroad sent home 8.4 percent more money last year, increasing their remittances to a record $1.54 billion, the central bank said on Friday.

Cash from abroad is a major source of foreign exchange for the import-dependent economy, along with earnings from tea, tourism and horticulture. Kenyans abroad typically send money to help their families and for investments such as real estate.

Last year's remittances offered much-needed support to the Kenyan shilling, which fell close to its record low of 107 per dollar last September before stabilising.

The shilling is up 0.5 percent against the dollar this year, bucking the trend among other major African currencies, which have been hit by a rout in global commodities markets.