The deep-rooted links between Kenya and the UK are gaining strength commercially thanks to efforts by the British Chamber of Commerce Kenya to connect businesses in both countries. The Chamber’s former CEO Jonathan Huxley explains its progress and the close ties between the two nations.
Could you please discuss the genesis of the Chamber and key milestones it has achieved since 2014?
The Chamber has come a long way since its inception in 2014. Based on the long-standing British Business Association of Kenya, it set itself the goal of becoming the voice of British business in the country – and the first port of call for UK-based companies wishing to operate in Kenya. Less than two years later, the Chamber has 103 corporate members, ranging from FTSE 100 multinationals to small local businesses, and 50 consultant members, and is widely acknowledged as the networking organization for British-linked businesses in Kenya. It attracts key players in the Kenyan business environment to speak at its monthly networking events; recent guests have included the chairman of the Central Bank of Kenya and the director of the Kenyan Competition Commission. In addition, it has established very close links with the British High Commission, where its offices are located. With four full-time staff, the Chamber is now focused on attracting more UK-based businesses to consider Kenya as a business destination.
Bearing in mind the government’s commitment to create a more conducive business environment, what are the key opportunities available for British companies to partner or invest in Kenya?
The Government of Kenya has listened to private sector concerns about ease of doing business in the country and has made progress in a number of areas to make it easier for companies to set-up shop in this inherently entrepreneurial country, significantly through streamlining credit-check processes and reducing business registration time.
British companies have much to offer in Kenya; our know-how in the financial, ICT and renewables sectors is having a substantial impact, and British consulting engineers are often to be found in some of Kenya’s most complex public and private sector infrastructure projects.
British companies are also increasingly identifying Kenyan partners to assist them in getting their innovative products into this growing regional market – Sunderland-based Velocity’s partnership with Avery East Africa to bring its mobile rapid road-patching solution to Kenya being a particularly good example.
How is the British Chamber of Commerce working alongside Kenya’s private and public sector in order to facilitate investment from the UK?
We partner with the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and Kenyan National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) to promote the interests of UK businesses in the country. Increasingly, we are recruiting Kenyan businesses that trade with British companies into the Chamber – who are increasingly looking for partnership with UK-based businesses. The Velocity-AEA example is, we hope, the form of partnership that we will increasingly facilitate.
To what extent do commerce and people-to-people connections really drive the deepening of bilateral ties between Kenya and the UK?
Trade is undoubtedly an important part of the UK-Kenya relationship. Britain is, by dint of its history and geography, a trading nation – and Kenya is a hugely entrepreneurial society. It is no surprise that the two countries should find mutual commercial interests, and these ties are reinforced by a shared past and a common language. Thousands of Kenyans have been and are educated in Britain’s universities, and often maintain their links with the UK through their activities as business leaders on returning to their home countries. Likewise, thousands of Britons have made their home in Kenya and are frequently significant employers and key contributors to Kenya’s economy.
Could you please discuss Kenya remaining as a principal tourism destination in the East African Community (EAC) for British tourists?
The general consensus amongst British businesses operating in Kenya is that the security situation is improving and that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office is getting the balance right in terms of providing considered travel advice. Kenya will remain a tourist destination of choice in spite of some of its recent security challenges – ultimately it is able to offer some very high quality safari experiences with a very high standard of service and accommodation – in contrast to some of its competitors in the region – and excellent resorts on the beautiful Kenyan coast.