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Hong Kong rides on China as it seeks inroads into Kenya

NEWS
By Moses Michira | August 7th 2019
The 42-km-long bridge will connect three major cities — Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai. [Reuters]

Representatives from 10 multi-billion-dollar companies from Hong Kong are in Kenya, hunting for investment opportunities.

They are looking to invest in a wide range of sectors, including banking, construction and manufacturing.

Among the specific targets are major infrastructure projects such as the planned seaports and agro-processing, mainly for export.

Financial institutions involved in the delegation are also said to be hoping to spot local banks they could potentially acquire as an outlet for their money through loans to individuals and businesses.

The delegation first visited Djibouti before coming to Mombasa and Nairobi.

They consider Kenya and Djibouti as the key entry points into Africa as part of the wider China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Through BRI, China hopes to connect a third of the world by opening them up as potential markets for its own produce and a source for raw materials.

Already, China is known as the world’s factory and lender, a feat that tiny Hong Kong could be keen on achieving considering the wealth under its jurisdiction.

No specific amount of funds has been committed yet.

Hong Kong, which is an autonomous territory and former British colony near China, is the world’s second-largest source of foreign investments after the United States.

Director of Research of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Nicholas Kwan, who is leading the delegation, said in Nairobi yesterday the companies are keen to exploit lucrative opportunities in the continent.

“We are here to create awareness for our members regarding the vast investment opportunities in Kenya and the rest of Africa. The delegation is pleased by what they have seen and felt,” Kwan said on the sidelines of a trade fair organised by Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest) and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI).

KenInvest played host to the Hong Kong delegation, highlighting the major projects that are only awaiting funding.

Konza City with a projected budget of Sh1.45 trillion was among those that were marketed to the investors, besides a host of dams that would be built through the public-private partnership model.

Moses Ikiara, the chief executive of KenInvest, pointed out to the delegations about the major opportunities in the apparels and leather processing sectors which have the potential to create millions of jobs.

“90 per cent of the fabric used in Kenya’s apparel sector is imported. There is, therefore, a great opportunity for import substitution through local production in cotton processing and ginning industries,” Ikiara said.

He added that there are existing and new textile mills and apparel manufacturing within planned Special Economic Zones which the investors could consider.

Richard Ngatia, the President of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), said such trade fairs presented major opportunities, especially for the small local businesses to find support in finding new markets.

"We have created a huge opportunity for KNCCI members to unlock partnerships which will help us enhance what we already have,” he said. Such collaborations would bring about capital, expertise and affordable credit, added the chamber President.

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