Q: You attended the UK-Africa Investment Summit held in London on January 20, 2020. What developments were there at the event?
A: I think the summit represented a good opportunity to improve areas of partnership between the UK and Kenya. There are plenty of opportunities for British investors in Kenya in agriculture, mining and energy. There is so much potential. For example, British companies are already heavily involved in wind power projects, improving agricultural production and the telecoms sector in the country.
Q: How strong is the Kenyan economy today? Does it need to become more diversified?
A: Economic growth in the country has averaged about 6% a year during the past decade. Our inflation rate is very stable at about 5.7%; the currency has also been very stable.
The government is very much engaged in a fiscal consolidation exercise at the moment. We are in the process of widening the tax base and we will also probably agree to a further programme with the IMF. The country is embarking on a series of important reforms, including land reform.
Kenya has moved up the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings to 56th place [in the 2020 edition] from 86th spot before. The credit rating is at B+ and has been improving. Kenya’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture but we are making a big effort to further industrialise [our output]. There are huge opportunities in ICT and tourism. The country boasts a highly skilled workforce, which investors and employers can call upon.
Q: Do you think it is important that a new highway is constructed that links east Africa to west Africa? Wouldn’t this damage the natural environment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC]?
A: The African Continental Free Trade Area creates a huge opportunity for improving trading links in Africa. Currently, connectivity between west Africa and east Africa is quite limited. I think this highway axis between the two regions needs to happen. The environmental cost is superseded by the benefits to humanity.
Kenyan ports are already vital to DRC; the standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi is important for transporting cargo. Kenya has also upgraded the Kisumu port on Lake Victoria, which ferries cargo on ships in the lake to Burundi and other neighbouring countries.
Q: Like most African countries, Kenya has a very young population. Are enough opportunities being created for young people?
A: One of our greatest challenges is harnessing the energy of youth. It is essential that young people are equipped with the right skills and knowhow. If this does not happen, the young can become restless. I believe Kenya needs double-digit economic growth if it is to bring down unemployment and reduce poverty in a meaningful way. I think the government has the right attitude towards wealth creation and that the private sector can thrive in the country.