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Kenyan-Norwegian business partnerships blooming

By Christopher Owuor
Wednesday, March 25th, 2020
Economic growth. Photo/Courtesy

AMB Elin Rognlie       

One of the largest Norwegian business delegations to ever visit an African country has just returned home after three full days in Kenya.

The large and broad specter of companies represented in the delegation reflects the increasing interest among Norwegian businesses in the Kenyan market.

Many Norwegian actors with experience from Kenya are now seeking to strengthen their existing portfolios, while even more companies new to Africa are attracted by the diversity, openness and vibrancy found in the East Africa’s largest economy. 

Kenya is an especially interesting market for Norwegian companies within renewable energy, ICT, smart cities, agricultural technology, flower production and tourism sectors.

Business cooperation is indeed an increasingly important part of the bilateral relationship between Norway and Kenya.

The Government Pension Fund Global —the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund —and Norfund have already placed their bets on Kenya.

Sustainable Kenyan and foreign investments are a prerequisite for development, job creation and tax revenues.

Private sector growth is key in ensuring Kenya’s young population can graduate from poverty. More Norwegian firms are now ready to contribute to growth through increased trade and investments. 

Around 25 Norwegian companies are currently set-up in Kenya. Norwegian investors in renewable energy and solar energy production, where companies such as Scatec Solar, Gjertsen and Bright Products already have a presence in Kenya.

There is also significant economic cooperation within agriculture and agricultural technology.

Companies such as Yara, Mester Grønn and Bama are stakeholders in this sector. 

Up to 60 per cent of Norway’s exports to Kenya are chemical fertilisers. Yara here is the major player, celebrating 25 years in Kenya.

The firm is currently working on developing technology that makes fertilisers available to the smaller farms off the beaten track, which have previously been difficult to reach. 

However, companies do not need to be big to have a big impact. One company that visited Kenya this month is called “Find My”.

It all started with a sheep farmer from Norway who needed a solution when many animals disappeared from pasture.

A sheep bell that sends signals through satellites to the phone was the solution. Now they are bringing the solution to Kenya. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the Government Pension Fund Global, started investing in Kenya in 2012 and had by the end of 2018 an equity portfolio of Sh10 billion. The investments are distributed between 17 Kenyan companies. 

Norfund has a portfolio worth approximately Sh23.16 billion in Kenya, which is invested in clean energy, agriculture and the financial sector, as well as eco-tourism.

Norfund has its regional East Africa office here in Nairobi. Kenya is one of Norfund’s largest investment markets. 

There is an evident connection between education and business development.

There are clear expectations that business should contribute to job creation and wealth creation in local communities. This is vital to ensure sustainable job creation and business development. 

The Norwegian government expects that Norwegian companies conducting international business are well versed with guidelines for responsible business and the UN’s guiding principles on human rights. 

An unfortunate deterrent for Norwegian companies considering Kenya as an investment destination is, however, corruption.

The Norwegian government, therefore, fully supports the ongoing Kenyan measures in combating this endemic evil. 

Kenyan products are also increasingly popular in Norway. Imports from Kenya have doubled in the last decade, earning Kenyan producers Sh5.5 billion in revenue last year. 

A sound macroeconomic environment with a stable currency, low inflation rates and solid foreign reserves makes Kenya even more appealing.

Kenya showed itself yet again as a dynamic market with vast opportunities to the Norwegians visiting last month.  —The writer is Norwegian Ambassador to Kenya  

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