Journalist, Nikiwe Bikitsha bids farewell to Kenya.East Africa, particularly Kenya, has been a bright shining light in an otherwise economically challenged 2016 sub-Saharan Africa.
This is according to Jibran Qureishi, a Standard Bank economist whom Nikiwe Bikitsha interviewed during the Kenyan leg of her #AfricaConnected tour, which explores the continent’s key countries of opportunity.
Mostly, Mr Qureishi explains, Kenya’s anticipated GDP growth of 5.6% for 2016 can be attributed to its diversified economy. Though still reliant on agriculture as its main earner, the country is turning to more sophisticated sectors to drive growth.
Speaking to entrepreneurs and business leaders, it’s striking just how many initiatives that spur on Kenya’s prosperity were created to improve the lives of others, rather than for monetary gain alone: John Muchiri, Head of Merchant Payments for M-Pesa (a cellphone-based money transfer and financing service), says the main motivation for his company is the positive impact their product has had on the lives of average Kenyans.
Created in 2007 by the tremendously successful Safaricom, M-Pesa today provides employment to over 150 000 people, while its parent-company is currently the most profitable in Africa. But, says Mr Muchiri, profit was never the main focus; he and his team are passionate about transforming lives and they make that happen every day.
Moving on to the critical farming sector, Nikiwe talks to Jane Ngige, CEO of the Kenya Flower Council. She explains how Kenya’s thriving flower export market (the third largest in the world) is doing its part to combat the country’s high level of youth unemployment with the establishment of a board committee of young directors. According to Ms Ngige, the youngsters are trained to take over the flower farms, injecting them with new ideas and methods. This not only ensures future employment, but also preserves an essential foreign exchange-generating industry.
Designer Adele Dejak is yet another entrepreneur whose unstoppable ambition is uplifting those in her community. Though small, her jewellery-making business sources materials from suppliers situated all over the country, providing them with a reliable income.
With a population so willing to innovate and create, it seems that investment opportunities abound in Kenya. This is certainly the case, says Ory Okolloh Mwangi, Director of Investments at Omidyer Networks and one of the country’s most prominent citizens: Though challenges like corruption cannot be overlooked, lucrative opportunities exist in the tourism, energy (particularly renewables), construction and infrastructure sectors. Mr Qureishi confirms that construction has been a new driver of growth, but also highlights the innovation and technology sector as an attractive option.
Investors looking to take advantage of East Africa’s “shining light” will find a reliable partner in Standard Bank. Our main goal is to help Africa realise its true potential, and with our strong presence on the continent and global capabilities, we can help investors realise theirs, too.