State taps Arab investors for infrastructure projects

Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Abdullah Sultan Al Owais hands over gift to Richard Ngatia, Chairman of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Nairobi Chapter during the UAE- Kenya Trade and Investment conference, held at a Nairobi hotel. Looking on is Kenyan Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, Adan Mohamed. (Photo: Courtesy)


Kenya is seeking petro-dollars from investors in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to sink into big infrastructural projects currently being undertaken.

A delegation of 45 business leaders from the Middle Eastern nations is currently pitching camp in the country looking for opportunities to invest in energy, tourism and agriculture. They are led by Saudi’s Abdullah Sultan Al Owaid, the chairman of Sharjah’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Trade and Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed said in a media briefing Thursday that the Government was more interested in having investors put money in ongoing infrastructure projects than in industries such as agro-processing.

“We have investors coming in from Dubai and the UAE and putting money in the traditional sectors of our economy but now we would also like them to diversify and invest even in the projects that are coming up, where returns are good,” he said.

Mr Mohamed spoke after hosting the delegation and members of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) on a roundtable discussion which sought to open up new trade opportunities between Kenya and the Arabian nations.

Mr Abdullah told the meeting of the many opportunities that investors from his country can put money in, given enough time to explore.

“Business does not happen the same day an investor comes. We will be around and if we see any opportunity we will invest,” he said.

Kenya exports nuts, flowers, coffee, tea, vegetables, fruits and textiles to Saudi Arabia, while the Arabian kingdom brings in petrol, pharmaceutical products and fertiliser.

A Saudi Arabian mining company, Maaden, is the largest exporter of phosphate fertilisers to Kenya. It is directly owned by the Saudi royal family.

The trade imbalance between the two countries stands at Sh1 billion in favour of the Saudis.

Mr Abdullah said his delegation will be holding bilateral talks with the trade ministry in the next few days, which will determine the amount the Saudis will pump into the Kenyan economy.

“We were here some time ago and I can confirm that since our last meeting, trade between our two countries grew by 11 per cent. Even this time after our bilateral talks the same positive impact will come,” he said.

KNCCI Nairobi branch chairman Richard Ngatia said the business environment was right for takeoff, but required huge capital investments.

“We are a country on the growth (path) and we need your capital, which I can guarantee is safe because the Government is very stable,” he said.

Earlier the Kenyan chamber hosted a business advisory organisation from the US in negotiations expected to open up the American market to local small enterprises.

Centre of International Private Enterprise signed a partnership with KNCCI that would allow traders preferential market access.