The rose business in Kenya has bloomed and is one of East Africa’s agricultural powerhouses. Estimated to be worth over 63 billion Kenyan shillings, it contributes 24% to the country’s GDP, affirming Kenya as a significant player in the global floral market. More than 500 000 people in the country depend on the trade, according to the Kenya Flower Council, with roughly half of the country's 127 flower farms concentrated around Lake Naivasha, which is situated about 90 kilometers northwest of Nairobi.
The flower industry is big business and the success of this export can be attributed to Kenya’s sunny climate, enabling high-quality blossoms to be grown year round without the need for expensive-to-run greenhouses. The country also boasts excellent transport links to Europe through Nairobi airport, which has a terminal dedicated to the transport of flowers. This means that delicate floral cargo can be carried from growers to consumers quickly and without damage or compromising freshness.
Kenya’s flower power is so strong that it accounts for 35% of all sales to the European market, with flights leaving for Holland three times a day to satisfy the European demand. Another 25% goes to the UK and some direct sales to consumers around the world. The domestic market isn’t left out; the East African country’s roses beautify hospitals, weddings, markets, funerals and corporations throughout Kenya, where they are sold in all urban centres by street vendors and in shopping centers.
Floral farming is not always a bed of roses; Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia and Rwanda are all chasing the same customers. However, many of Kenya’s growers are hoping to sustain their position by running highly sophisticated operations that are responsive to the unique demands of different markets.
To further leverage their position, the Kenyan industry is now exploring other markets such as Australia, Canada and Japan. Direct flights from Nairobi airport play a crucial role in helping the Kenyan flower business take off globally. Award-winning journalist Nikiwe Bikitsha recently visited one of Kenya’s flower markets as part of the #AfricaConnected campaign with Standard Bank. While there, she met with Jane Ngige, CEO of the Kenya Flower Council, who explained how Kenya’s thriving flower export market is also helping combat the country's high level of unemployment with the establishment of a board committee of young directors.
Stanbic Bank in Kenya is a driver of the country’s agriculture sector, supporting local producers by helping them turn their farms into a thriving export business.