Uhuru, Raila's handshake impact on investor confidence, political stability

President Uhuru Kenyatta greets Opposition leader Raila Odinga at Harambee House in Nairobi. [Photo: Reuters]

In January, the country was wallowing in the miasma of economic turbulence, political turmoil and social strains, which threatened the very existence of the republic as we have known it since 1963 and before.

Central Bank Governor Dr Patrick Njoroge boldly admitted in an interview with CNN that the economy was in bad shape because of the political upheaval.

Panic sells by foreign investors triggered a 30-minute halt at the NSE, with huge sales at Safaricom, Equity and East Africa Breweries causing a dip in share prices across several counters.

While the country sank further in turmoil, her neighbours - Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia were attracting huge investments - estimated to be in billions of shillings.

In March 9, the public gesture of reconciliation between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga and their desire to move the country forward following the year-long electioneering campaigns in 2017 was a relief to Kenyans who had been wondering on the way forward.

The National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga in March said that his handshake with President Uhuru Kenyatta was painful but a worthy decision for millions of Kenyans.

According to the former premier, it was not easy for him to sit down with President Uhuru to sign the MOU.

Speaking in Kisii for the first time since the leaders met, Raila said he was ready to work with Uhuru for the sake of uniting all Kenyans well as thousands of Kenyans who had died in election-related violence for several years and to grow the economy.

There was some optimism though exuded by lawyer Paul Mwangi and Ambassador Martin Kimani who were tasked by Uhuru and Raila to jointly oversee the bid to unite and heal Kenyans.

And with it, Kenyans were being granted a blank cheque for brand new beginnings for the republic. It was a chance for the country to stoke up fresh ethos to sustain us through a new era of inclusiveness, unity, peace and happiness.

Following the handshake, investors had confidence to undertake businesses in the country which in turn promoted the President’s Big Four agenda.

In March, British High Commissioner to Kenya Nic Hailey said his country was scouting Nyanza region for new business opportunities.

Hailey said this when he toured the Sh15 billion East African Breweries Limited Kisumu factory. He observed that the investors were leveraging on the rising business confidence and political stability in the country to channel more investments into the region.

In August, President Uhuru Kenyatta met US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington DC and invited the US to increase its trade and investments in Africa during a bilateral meeting held at the Cabinet Office in the White House.

President Kenyatta and President Trump also agreed to bolster the Kenya-US partnership in peace and security especially in the Horn of Africa region.

The two leaders also discussed the direct flights from Nairobi to New York by Kenya Airways that was inaugurated in October and agreed that they will boost tourism and trade for the mutual benefit of the two countries.

Under the same period, Chinese investors signed business deals in Kenya with the launch of the Africa Guangdong Business Association.

The lobby opened its Nairobi chapter to help grow trade between Guangdong Province and Kenya.

Its chairman, Zhu Layi, said the experience and lessons of China’s 40 years of reform and trade will provide a reference point for Africa’s development.

At the event, Industry, Trade and Co-operatives Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya revealed that Mr Zhu, who is also a founding member of the Africa Economic Zones (AEZ) in partnership with New South Group and DL Group, will develop another special economic zone in Kenya.

The AEZ plans to invest $2 billion (Sh200 billion) for the nine-kilometre industrial park that is expected to create over 40,000 jobs.

In September, IFC a World Bank’s private lending financial institution gave hope to Kenya after committing to invest twice in the private sector.

In the same time, UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s visited the country clearing the Sh500 billion shilling investments in Kenya.

Twenty UK companies committed to raise their investments across the country to generate at least 2,250 direct and high value jobs, and more than 100,000 additional jobs in the wider economy.

IFC had earlier on invested Sh120 million to small medium enterprises dealing with road construction and upgrading and a further Sh100 million in horticultural sector.

Also, delegation of more than 30 companies from the Indian state of Gujarat flew to Kenya looking for investment opportunities in diverse sectors.

The delegation, hosted by Indian High Commissioner to Kenya Suchitra Durai, was interested in the energy, health, information technology, textiles, mining and metals sectors.

According to Ms Durai, the business leaders were keen on agriculture, especially agricultural mechanization.

In October, Kenya foreign and local investment improved greatly in Brand Finance Scale according to the report by a global business valuation consultancy, Brand Finance.

The firm which deals with brand valuation held that Kenya improved in position from 77 to 72, a five points margin due to conducive political and economic environment.

The nations brand value globally stands at Sh3.8 trillion occasioned by investors interest in Kenya.

In November, the European Union (EU) unveiled a Sh500 billion joint cooperation strategy, opening a new chapter in bilateral relations between Kenya, the economic bloc and it’s 19-member States.

After nine months of anticipation and anxiety that almost put the future of their reconciliation in doubt, President Kenyatta landed in Kisumu for an action-packed visit that was the talk of Nyanza for weeks.

Raila, who was recently appointed the African Union’s High representative for Infrastructural Development had been waiting for the Uhuru visit to confirm to his supporters that their reconciliation was real.

Therefore, no economy can thrive in the face of political chaos and anxiety.