Interview: Anne Kirima-Muchoki

How would you assess the current business environment, and which sectors are driving investment?

ANNE KIRIMA-MUCHOKI: With the post-election turbulence now resolved, investment is resuming. The country is once again working together and the government’s Big Four agenda is helping to drive investment. Affordable housing is one of the main four pillars of the strategy, with a plan under way to establish one- to three-bedroom units at a cost of between KSh600,000 ($5880) and KSh3m ($29,400). This initiative has been supported by changes in housing and land regulations, and is expected to serve as a major driver of growth.

The second pillar aims at promoting universal health care, encouraging preventive treatment and boosting access to medicine. The third pillar focuses on manufacturing. The importance of this sector stems from its value-added component, especially when it comes to agriculture and basic products. However, challenges remain that need to be addressed, particularly in the country’s coffee segment. Despite being amongst the world’s top producers, we continue to primarily export it as a raw commodity. Putting a top-quality coffee product on the shelves would incentivise both farmers and the processing industry to produce more, while also allowing for better returns on investment.

Promoting higher-value manufacturing provides a way of putting more money back in the pockets of producers. The last pillar of the government’s agenda is aimed at ensuring improved food security, notably through enhanced storage and better resource management. Currently, there is a huge drive to change our legislation to address any obstacles hindering these goals from becoming a reality.

What sectors are better suited to attracting foreign direct investment (FDI)?

MUCHOKI: All four pillars of the Big Four agenda are attracting significant amounts of investment. The government of President Uhuru Kenyatta has been directly involved in each step of this process, working with Parliament and other state agencies to ensure that all legislation is harmonised.

What can be done to leverage Kenya’s technological expertise to serve as a driver for increased FDI?

MUCHOKI: Technology is crucial for development, serving not only to attract FDI but also to deal with other problems such as corruption. Kenya boasts high levels of technological uptake and some of Africa’s best connectivity rates. The country’s ICT infrastructure is making it increasingly easier for companies to establish operations here. For example, Konza Technology City is one of the projects that testifies to the country’s determination to capitalise on its technological edge, improve business conditions and attract FDI.

How can investment in rural areas be encouraged?

MUCHOKI: The government has made progress in this area by allocating each of the 47 counties with its own budget and resources. Each county has been encouraged to identify its respective comparative advantage and develop a specific investment plan. As a result, international investors coming to Nairobi are now being directed to the relevant county, in accordance with their business requirements.

What are the most common challenges international investors face in Kenya?

MUCHOKI: The main tool an investor needs is information. Therefore, an online portal has been created to help identify opportunities in different sectors. Another issue is the inaccurate perception many people have of Africa. The continent is a land of opportunity, offering some of the best returns on investment. Furthermore, its connections to the rest of world have improved considerably. Kenya, for instance, is now connected to every other city on the continent and has recently launched a new direct flight to New York.