Kenya has proven a resilient economy during global turmoil. Ahead of a sector roundtable on investment, banking and finance expert Ribin Ondwari spoke to Craig Sisterson about key factors creating an even brighter future.
While Kenya has a resilient economy and is already an attractive destination for private equity and venture capital investment, several initiatives and “a lot of working happening in the background” have the country well placed to achieve some very ambitious goals in terms of global competitiveness and attracting business, says fast-rising legal star Ribin Ondwari.
“There’s been keen implementation of specific measures to boost activity in priority sectors, then make Kenya really attractive in terms of PE (private equity) and VC (venture capital) investment opportunities,” noted Ondwari, the Head of Real Estate, Banking and Financial Services at leading firm Ashitiva Advocates LLP. “The current government has five key priority areas where it’s looking to boost economic activity: agriculture and agribusiness; micro and SME development; the digital superhighway and creative economy; housing; and universal healthcare.
Ashitiva is co-hosting a sector roundtable on 12 September with Pinsent Masons and the Nairobi International Finance Centre (NIFC), which will bring together various stakeholders including investors, DFIs, PE and VC firms, industry associations and public officials to create a platform for discussions about how best to deepen investment in Kenya.
Although it is relatively new, Ondwari sees the NIFC playing a key role in Kenya’s future.
“The Centre really has huge potential in terms of having an impact and what they intend to achieve, being designed to strengthen Kenya’s global competitiveness, make it easier to attract business in the country, and help raise over two billion in targeted investments by 2030,” he said. “Partnerships and initiatives like the upcoming roundtable are geared towards them having a big impact in attracting and raising that much investment. Then there’s technical assistance, the convenient positioning in Nairobi, and a lot of work still happening in the background. So what we can really see is the potential is huge.”
For Ondwari, the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement along with business-friendly government priorities, policies, and legal and regulatory reforms all herald a bright future.
“A lot has been happening locally in terms of law reform, but I think there needs to be a lot more push towards implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, because that will allow us to leverage on a single market of around 1.2 billion people,” Ondwari explained. “It’s very obvious the Kenyan market would be much stronger if there’s proper coordination and opening up of the market in a way that Africa can then trade with, for example, the United States as a single bloc, and every region then leverages its own strengths while playing together to try to create a much stronger market. That’s what we think should be happening.”
Ondwari and his colleagues feel very positive about Kenya’s future given the behind-the-scenes work going on. “We’re able to speak about private equity, venture capital and other investment matters because as a firm we are actively involved in terms of the transactions in the market, and also the policy and regulatory framework that are happening at both government and multi-sectoral level. So we can speak about this because we’re actively involved in all those processes.”
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