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US firms eyeing Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 28 – Kenya is still attracting foreign investment, especially from American companies that have expressed interest in intensifying operations the country, according to US Ambassador Scott Gration.

With Kenya as the United States’ fourth largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa, the envoy says it is time for the country to become more proactive about attracting more US direct investment.

“Several US companies, Dow Chemical, BAE, Marriot, have visited with me to discuss their intention to invest in Kenya. Representatives from GE, IBM and other companies want to expand their presence,” he revealed.

Gration, who was speaking at the monthly American Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday, added that Kenya was at an important crossroads with the impending elections next year and on-going implementation of the Constitution.

Expediting such political reforms, he stressed would help cultivate investor confidence in Kenya as a reliable partner and desirable destination for international investment.

The Ambassador revealed that top on his agenda would be securing direct flights between the US and Kenya to strengthen commercial and economic ties and create jobs in both countries.

“Kenya would have direct access to 300 million potential consumers in the US – Americans who love Kenyan tea, coffee, crafts and cut flowers,” he said.

The direct flights will generate higher cargo volumes, faster delivery times and lower shipping costs as added benefits to companies on both sides.

Improving infrastructure and tapping into Kenya’s unemployed population through Information and Communications Technology (ICT) opportunities, are efforts the ambassador said would accelerate Kenya’s economic growth.

“There is no reason that Kenya cannot become a regional leader in ICT given its success in developing innovative applications such as M-Pesa, Ushahidi and I-Cow,” he noted.

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About 43 percent of disposable income in Kenya is spent on mobile phones, a trend largely accredited to the Kenyan government’s decision to cut value added tax (VAT) on mobile handsets in 2009.

Gration mentioned the importance of enhancing the Mombasa Port’s efficiency to boost profits for the private sector and facilitate more trade.

Using technologies such as microchips, Gration added would be instrumental in streamlining operations at the port.

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