Polman told President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House Nairobi that the planned investment will cater for the company’s expanding interests in the greater eastern African region, including in Ethiopia and Tanzania.
The investment will also result in skill and technology transfer opportunities, as well as creating hundreds of jobs for Kenyans, he added.
The CEO said the company also planned to expand its existing factories in the lush hill-top farmlands of Kericho, to increase the amount of teas processed there to 50,000 tonnes per year from the current 30,000 tonnes. Unilever was also working with researchers on how to raise tea yield on Kenyan farms by up to 40 percent.
Unilever buys as much as 30 percent of Kenyan teas.
Polman is on a visit to review his company’s interests and consult government and business leaders on how to further improve the investment climate in Kenya.
Unilever’s Kericho based tea business has 8,400 hectares of tea bushes and seven factories producing sustainable tea for the global market.
Polman appreciated Government efforts to enhance efficiency on management and cargo handling at the port of Mombasa. He said due to good infrastructure, his company has identified Kenya as one of the three strategic hubs in Africa, alongside Nigeria and South Africa.
President Kenyatta told Polman the Government was committed to removal of any barriers that impede foreign and local investment as part of the campaign to grow the economy by double-digit figures.
The President said enhanced efficiency in infrastructure was at the top of the government agenda to attract more investments.
“We will measure the success of the reforms undertaken to improve on efficiency in Government by the level of new investments in the country,” he said. “We certainly welcome Unilever’s planned investment”.
The President said the Government’s Second Medium Term Plan, which he launched earlier on Thursday, was aimed at making Kenya the most competitive investor destination south of Sahara.
The Government was focused on ensuring affordable, reliable and sustainable supply of energy to stimulate high and sustained economic growth, he said.
“Improvement and expansion of the port of Mombasa, rail and road transport is a priority to my Government to reduce the cost of doing business,” the President added.
President Kenyatta said the Government was also focused on conservation and expansion of forests in the country. He added that Mau catchment was being conserved with community participation for sustainability.
Adan Mohammed, the Cabinet Secretary for Industrialisation and Enterprise Development, said there was a flurry of business interest in Kenya, sparked by Kenya’s prudent management of the economy and pro-business policies.
“Unilever are here for the long-haul and this investment shows that. But there is great interest in our country at the moment and that augurs well for the future of our economy,” said Mohammed at the meeting.
(Article by Kobia Mwirichia)