Kenya, UK should bolster trade and investment ties

Next year, London will host the first-ever UK-Africa Investment Summit, bringing together businesses, governments and international institutions to encourage investment in a range of sectors that African countries have identified as their top priorities.

The summit offers Kenya an unrivalled global platform to attract international investment into the Big Four, the opportunities of which I saw first-hand last week on my visit to Nairobi.

As the Lord Mayor of London, I represent London’s financial district - the City of London or ‘the Square Mile’ - championing the UK's financial and professional services sector at home and overseas. The UK is the leading exporter of financial services across the world, and London is the world’s gateway to global capital and advice, a hub for innovation, and at the centre of the drive towards greening the global financial system.

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I spent Wednesday and Thursday discussing how we can leverage greater investment from London to support the Big Four agenda, business development and local job creation. London manages assets equivalent to over Sh1,000 trillion, but I believe UK investment is about values as much as volume – which is why I was pleased to launch a new UKAid-funded report on how Kenyan firms can raise standards on environmental, social and governance issues to international levels.

London and Kenya already enjoy a strong trade and investment relationship. British investment is creating jobs and opportunities here and channelling money into the Kenyan economy.

I am keen to support efforts to grow that relationship of mutual prosperity further. Indeed, Kenya’s positive trajectory in the ease of doing business rankings, growing economy and dynamic private sector make the country an increasingly exciting proposition for UK investors.

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Among areas for future co-operation and collaboration, fintech – with innovation more broadly – stands out. The UK is one of the world’s top three destinations for venture capital investment in fintech, while London has sealed more fintech investment deals than any other global financial centre so far in 2019.

Kenya, as the home of the world-famous mobile money system M-Pesa, is already leading the way in showcasing the kind of positive social impact fintech can have, providing affordable financial services to more than 30 million people across the continent. I want to see investors from London supporting the emergence of the next M-Pesa, empowering individuals and businesses to borrow, save and exchange money.

On Thursday, I met with promising Kenyan fintech start-ups, who explained how their innovative products could benefit companies, investors and consumers alike. Those start-ups are receiving business development and investor readiness support through the Catalyst Fund, and I was pleased to be able to announce £10 million (Sh1.3 billion) of new UKAid funding to support this work.

In the new year, the most promising Kenyan fintechs will travel to London to connect with the UK’s tech-savvy investment community at the Africa Investment Summit; a fantastic opportunity to attract investment and build new mutually beneficial partnerships.

Investment in innovations which respond to climate change and build climate resilience is timely, and another area of future growth. I am proud that London is leading global efforts to green the financial system.

With an abundance of natural resources and a range of entrepreneurs and companies already working in this space, appetite for new opportunities in this field presents a real opportunity for Kenya.

UK investment is already supporting large renewable projects like Lake Turkana Wind Farm and Malindi Solar, and UK supports to Kenya’s Capital Markets Authority recently enabled the successful issuance of the country’s first Green Bond. Attracting more investment into companies that respond to one of the biggest challenges of our time makes good business sense.

The Africa Investment Summit will provide the Kenyan Government and Kenyan companies with the opportunity to build on previous successes, showcasing what Kenya has to offer to global investors in London.

London is keen to deepen its partnership with Kenya, supporting its ambitions to deliver long-term sustainable, inclusive, economic growth. I leave Nairobi confident there is more we can do together to encourage greater investment here, which supports job creation and mutual prosperity. I look forward to building on the conversations I have had both with businesses here and the Government of Kenya at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, working together to turn our ambition for greater investment into reality.

Rt Hon Estlin is the Lord Mayor of the City of London

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UK-Africa Investment SummitLord Mayor of LondonUK investorsPeter Estlin