Saturday, Oct 21, 2017
Conglomerate | Africa | Kenya

Sameer Group

“We believe in empowering our people and giving back to the community”


2 years ago

Naushad Merali, Chairman of the Sameer Group
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Naushad Merali

Chairman of the Sameer Group

Naushad Merali is the chief architect of the astonishing success that is the Sameer Group today – his vision and unfailingly astute business sense has helped build the largest economic force in the region. 

 

Kenya is a middle-income country, ranking as the ninth largest economy in Africa and sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth largest. However its EAC neighbors, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, are deepening their development agenda, making an extra effort for major economic expansion. To what extent would you describe Kenya as a principle gateway to EAC?

The recipe for sustained high growth in any economy has always included economic diversification, the spread of new technologies, rising productivity in agriculture, expansion of the manufacturing sector, and the development of a skilled workforce. When we look at the EAC as a community, it has managed to fast-track regional integration and diversification. Moreover, East Africa boasts much greater political stability than it has at any time in its recent past, and peace has been restored in most of the countries. The region has also seen major investments in both national and regional infrastructure; many more projects have been planned and are scheduled to commence shortly.

Within the EAC, the Kenyan economy is the anchor. The overall performance of the region wholly depends on Kenya and its economic prosperity. We boast the largest and the most dynamic economy, which is strongly linked to other economies in terms of investment flows and trade. Thanks to the country’s advanced human capital, diversified economy and its role as a leader in ICT revolution, Kenya is expected to remain strong, creating salutary benefits for the rest of the EAC. The prosperity of our nation is boosted by recent and continuous institutional reforms that are pro foreign investment and ease of doing business.

 

In line with that, President Uhuru Kenyatta recently stated that the private sector, innovators, and the youth are the keys to drive Africa’s growth, and governments should formulate the right policies for them to play a bigger role in the economy. How dynamic is Kenya’s private sector, putting this nation ahead of its neighbors?

Kenya’s private sector has been more dynamic than that of the other members of the community, which has translated into a more competitive and innovative economy relative to its neighbors. We possess several sectors that dominate and are as sophisticated as the rest of the world.

Kenya during the last decade has emerged as technological and financial hub for East and Central Africa. We have the most mobile subscriptions, and the most banked population in the region. These may seem simple developments in comparison to Europe, but it speaks volumes for Kenya’s private sector and how avid and vibrant it is to revolutionize and evolve.

One of our greatest advantages is our people; we rank at the top in terms of adult literacy rates, with 87%, which is followed by Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. This has enabled the private sector to utilize the skillset of the people, build on it and propel to new heights. If we examine global trends, then education plays a major role in increasing productivity and economic growth, and reducing poverty and inequality.

 

The Sameer Group has over 30 years experience in Kenya’s industrial and economic development. Your investment in the Kenyan economy provides direct and indirect employment for over 30,000 people. Can you please discuss more how is Sameer Group part of Kenyan’s daily life?

First and foremost, we believe in empowering our people and giving back to the community. I always stand on the principle of TEA – Trust, Efficiency and Attitude. In life, be realistic; remember that you are the pace setter of any achievement you wish to realize as a person; if you slow it down, it will take long to come by, but if you act on it now, things will start rolling out as long as you have the right mentality and you associate yourself with like-minded persons. This is our principle and we are actively involved with local communities, youth, women, farmers, etc., in order to encourage everyone to take a more proactive approach and set the bar high for themselves.

For example we are building a 26,000-seater stadium in the town of Nandi Hills, Nandi County. We want to facilitate and help the sporting talent from within the multinational tea estates in the county. Nandi County is very known for being a home to many world champions. The stadium not only will offer a perfect ground for the current athletes, but also empower younger generations to achieve and dream big.

 

The Sameer Group developed the Sameer Industrial Park in 1991 that was the country’s first Export Processing Zone; since then you have built on what is now one of the largest industrial parks in East Africa. Please discuss the significance of the industrial park and what it has to offer to foreign investors?

The industrial park is aimed at integrating our expertise with that of local and international investors. The EPZ produces a vast range of products, including horticulture, garments, computers and call center services. This complex provides employment for thousands of local Kenyans. We aim to form lasting coalitions with individuals and corporations. Currently there are companies in the service and manufacturing sectors housed in this ultra-modern tax-free Export Processing Zone, located in the open, rolling savannah, 20 minutes from Nairobi’s bustling metropolis.

 

It was recently announced in Nov 2015 that Sameer Group is set to invest Sh2.8 billion in a milk processing plant in Nakuru County. Governor Kinuthia has said, “this is a noble initiative and a huge investment. I am glad to note that you have picked Nakuru County to invest in the processing plant and we welcome you to invest here.” How is this investment underlining the potential of Kenya’s growing agro-industries?

Compared to other African countries, Kenya has very limited arable land and rainfall – but it also boasts the most sophisticated agricultural sector. Horticulture contributes the highest percentage of agricultural gross domestic product, followed by food crops.

It is projected to be a US$1 trillion industry in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 (compared to US$313 billion in 2010), and it should be at the top of the agenda for economic transformation and development. However just by concentrating on production agriculture we can never achieve these goals. Therefore, the Sameer Group is prioritizing threefold development: (1) develop downstream agribusiness activities (such as processing) as well as upstream activities (such as supplying inputs); (2) develop commercial agriculture; and (3) support and link smallholders and small enterprises to productive value chains. In line with our goals, the Kenyan government is realizing an industrialization vision where agro industry is at the top of its priorities.

Kenya is now at a crossroads, from which it can take concrete steps to realize its potential or continue to lose competitiveness – missing a major opportunity for increased growth, employment, and food security.

Now in regards to dairy, although much of Eastern and Southern Africa is well suited to dairy production, only Kenya has established a competitive dairy industry. The Sameer Group is investing Sh2.8 billion in a milk processing plant in Nakuru through the Sameer Agriculture, Livestock and Dairy Products company. The plant will employ hundreds of youths providing an employment to the county and a future prospect. I believe Nakuru is a perfect location for us, as the county has already a strong and willing workforce to enhance our operations from construction to the operation of the plant. We also hope that the investment will spur the growth of the county and attract more investments of the same scale in future.

 

President Uhuru Kenyatta has invited British Prime Minister David Cameron to visit the country early next year. The invitation is seen as an indication to repair relations and to entrench further the partnership between the two countries. David Cameron recently stated that it is time to reset the relationship between Kenya and the United Kingdom, and strengthen cooperation in security, economic and diplomatic fronts. What is the significance of David Cameron’s visit to re-establish stronger trade and investment ties with UK?

Cameron’s visit will bring enormous opportunities to Kenya. There is a reason why President Barack Obama and His Holiness Pope Francis visited Kenya in 2015: they see this nation as the connecting link to the rest of the EAC and beyond. There is a strong demand for British companies to bring sophistication, technology and expertise. Some of the key investors in Kenya have historically been from the UK and it still remains the case.

For example, Kenya’s agriculture sector can be a strong support to the UK’s supermarkets by providing high quality and organic produce. While you purchase a single avocado in UK for 2 British pounds, for that price you can buy more than 20 in Kenya. We need to utilize this new momentum both in Kenya and the UK to collaborate further and establish new trade and manufacturing ties.

We are currently working on a new system that will provide an opportunity for UK customers to directly purchase Kenyan-made products online, bringing a small manufacturer closer to its consumer in the UK. 



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