Doing Business in Kenya Forum

On October 30, 2018, the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), in partnership with the Government of Kenya, Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) and the American Chamber of Commerce Kenya hosted a Doing Business in Kenya Forum in New York City in honor of Kenya Airways’ maiden non-stop flight to the United States. 

Sponsored by Citibank, the forum brought together the Kenyan delegation and senior business leaders from Kenya and the United States. The delegation was led by Honorable Monica Juma, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and included Dr. Chris Kiptoo, Principal Secretary in the State Department for International Trade; Betty Maina, Principal Secretary in the State Department of Investment and Industry, Dr. Kamau Thugge, Principal Secretary in the National Treasury; Prof. Hamadi Boga, Principal Secretary, Agricultural Research and Crops Development and other senior Kenyan government officials.

The forum began with welcome remarks from CCA President and CEO, Ms. Florizelle Liser, who discussed Kenya’s importance to CCA and its members. In her remarks, Ms. Liser reiterated CCA’s commitment to promoting business opportunities in Kenya and announced a number of activities CCA would organize with its partners, the Government of Kenya and KNCCI.  Mr. Kiprono Kittony, KNCCI’s National Chairman, offered some welcome remarks and welcomed the opportunity to further strengthen KNCCI’s partnership with CCA through trade missions, roundtables and other platforms to encourage more business linkages between Kenyan and American businesses of all size. The opening session also included welcome remarks from Mr. Maxwell Okello, President of the American Chamber of Commerce Kenya and Ms. Carole Karuiki, CEO of Kenya Private Sector Alliance. Mr. Okello welcomed the delegation and talked about the number of American businesses already established in Kenya and the desire to have more American businesses set up a presence in Kenya to take part in new opportunities through President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda.

Mr. Joel Szabat, Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) for Aviation and International Affairs, U.S. Department of Transportation offered welcome remarks on behalf of the U.S. Government.  He emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Kenya relationship, noting the success of President Kenyatta’s bilateral trip to the United States earlier in the year which resulted in $900million of deals, as well as the PAC-DBIA trip to Kenya which resulted in $100 million of deals. He commended Kenya and Kenya Airways for the commencement of the direct flight in line with the long established Safe Skies for Africa Program.  He noted that this new direct flight has the potential to further elevate the U.S.-Kenya bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership. 

As the keynote speaker, Honorable Monica Juma conveyed her gratitude to CCA for providing a platform for her and her delegates to discuss doing business in Kenya. Honorable Juma talked about how Kenya Airways’ direct flight to the United States presents an excellent opportunity to transform the current Kenya-U.S economic relationship. Honorable Juma concluded her remarks by encouraging more U.S companies, including SMEs and startups, to harness Kenya's strengths as a gateway to Africa and to make their investment and trade with Kenya.

Following the keynote remarks, Principal Secretary in the State Department of Investment and Industry, Ms. Betty Maina, gave an extensive presentation on President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda. In his last term, President Kenyatta and his administration will focus their time and resources on a targeted transformative agenda based on four socio-economic pillars which are affordable housing, food security, universal health coverage and manufacturing.

The Big Four agenda seeks to address the most pressing concerns currently facing Kenyans while creating the best environment for achieving accelerated socio-economic transformation, increased job creation and improved quality of life. 

The Forum included a question and answer session with government officials. Moderated by Mr. Maxwell Okello, the panel discussion included Dr. Chris Kiptoo, Principal Secretary in the State Department for International Trade; Prof. Hamadi Boga, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture; Betty Maina, Principal Secretary in the State Department of Investment and Industry; and 
Dr. Kamau Thugge, Principal Secretary in the National Treasury. Each speaker spoke briefly about how their ministries were reviewing policies to enhance visibility and investment in the Big Four Agenda. 

The last session of the forum offered a private sector perspective on the business environment in Kenya. The panel was moderated by Michael Mutiga, Managing Director and Kenya Corporate Banking Head, Citibank. Other panelists included Peter Karenge, President, B360; Brenda Mbathi, Executive Director, GE; Mark Lippert, Vice President, Boeing International; and Rose Musau, President, Preferred Personnel Africa. 

The Forum was concluded with closing remarks from H.E. Ndiritu Muriithi, Governor of Laikipia County who talked about investment opportunities in Laikipia County. His county government has aligned its priorities to the Big Four Agenda to attract businesses to set up manufacturing plants and state of the art health facilities in the Laikipia County. H.E. Anne Waiguru, Governor of Kirinyaga County echoed his sentiments and talked about her county government’s approach to incentivizing Kenyan and American investors to consider Kirinyaga as a business destination, especially in the coffee, tea and horticulture sectors.  As the principal secretary in charge of international trade, Dr. Kiptoo, closed the forum by inviting investors to Kenya, citing how Kenya was poised to doing better in this year’s World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index report and availing himself and his colleagues at the ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives to help local and international businesses interested in pursuing business opportunities in Kenya.