Lender bets on trade missions to boost regional trade

From left: CBK Governor Dr Kamau Thugge, Karen Kandie, Director of Parastatals Reforms at the National Treasury and Planning and Equity Group CEO Dr. James Mwangi during the official opening of the 2023 Kenya – DRC Investors’ Roadshow. [File, Standard]

The East African region has risen to become one of the fastest-growing economic blocs in Africa as trade and integration become more seamless.

Over the past two years, Equity Bank has facilitated a number of trade missions to promote investment across the region. These are part of its recovery and resilience plan for Africa even as the lender deepens its presence across the continent.

The plan champions investments by the private sector in the agricultural and extractive sectors, manufacturing and logistics, trade and investment, technology, and uplifting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Some of the notable trade missions have been between Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where investors between the two countries are eyeing business opportunities.

The accession of the DRC into the East African Community (EAC) last year has increased the region’s gross domestic product GDP from $193 billion (Sh23.9 trillion) to $240 (29.7 trillion) and its consumer market from 177 million to 260 million people

This is as the mineral-rich economy turns out to be a fertile hunting ground for top firms, with the World Bank and the African Development Bank tipping the nation as the next frontier for growth.

Last year, 26 Kenyan companies - which were part of an Equity Bank-led trade mission - pledged to invest over Sh185 billion in DRC. Some of the companies who have made commitments include Rentco Africa Limited, Optiven Group, Greenlight Planet Limited, Jumbo Foam Limited, BIDCO, Geomaps, Nyanja Associates in DRC among others.

The last trade mission by Equity Bank was held this month in both Nairobi and Kinshasa.

The Group also staged an investors’ Roadshow for five days, which included visits to key cities in both countries, showcasing the immense potential for economic growth and development.

The itinerary included meetings with government officials, business associations, industry leaders, and Equity Group management, as well as site visits to showcase the potential investment opportunities firsthand.

“We are excited to host the Kenya and DRC Investors’ Roadshow, which serves as a remarkable opportunity for investors and partners from around the world to expand their business networks in these dynamic African markets,” Equity Group chief executive James Mwangi said.

“Through our Africa Recovery and Resilience Plan and the $7 billion (Sh987 billion) fund, Equity Group has demonstrated its commitment to championing sustainable investments that foster economic growth and wealth creation across various sectors in the region,” he added.

Kenya and the DRC boast thriving economies and diverse sectors that present promising investment prospects.

 The roadshow will provide a unique opportunity for investors to explore these markets firsthand and establish relationships with key stakeholders.

“The Kenyan economy has exhibited a lot of resilience and is one of the fastest growing economies in the region despite the global shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia – Ukraine conflict,” the Central Bank of Kenya Governor Kamau Thugge said during the launch of the Nairobi leg.

“This resilience stems from the fact that our economy is heavily diversified, and with opportunities for more investment in agricultural, trade and manufacturing sectors,” said Thugge.

The Kenya and DRC Investors’ Roadshow followed the success of previous trade missions conducted by Equity Group, including the Kenya-DRC, US-Tanzania, and US-Tanzania-Kenya trade missions held in 2021 and 2022.

“As the DRC joins the East African Community, the private sector must seize this opportunity and follow Equity’s lead. Where specific interventions are required, the government stands ready to provide support and assistance,” the National Treasury and Planning Director of Parastatals Reforms Karen Kandie stated.

During the December 2021 trade mission in Mbuji-Mayi town, Jeanette Musuamba, Governor Kasai Oriental Province hailed the Kenya-DRC trade mission as a milestone for development and praised the choice of Mbuji-Mayi as the final leg of an initiative where entrepreneurs and business owners were able to showcase the investment opportunities in the Great Kasai Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A delegation of over 7,000 attend the conferences and business networking sessions across the four cities.

Equity Bank Kenya and Tanzania in partnership with the United States Embassy in Kenya, East African Business Council, Minnesota Africans United, Global Minnesota, and Prosper Africa, a U.S. Government initiative that connects U.S. and African businesses with new buyers, suppliers, and investment opportunities.

The weeklong trade mission saw the US delegates representing various institutions in corporate America engage with over 500 local entrepreneurs, MSMEs, and corporates through organised panel discussions, one-on-one business networking sessions, and site visits to businesses in Nairobi and its environs.

The trade missions are among the many initiatives that the Group through its regional banking subsidiaries in six countries has put in place to accelerate the implementation of the Africa Recovery and Resilience Plan and to champion the sustainable building back better of the African continent post the Covid-19 pandemic.

The visiting delegates came as a group through Minnesota Africans United, Global Minnesota, and Prosper Africa and are keen on working with local businesses to either set up shop in Kenya or sign export/import agreements for local materials and finished goods.

The Africa Recovery and Resilience Plan was launched in early 2021 with Equity seeding it with a $7 billion fund with the aim of impacting 100 million people within the African continent through its financial and social impact initiatives and reaching five million MSMEs and 25 million individual customers, to create 50 million jobs.

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