By Fiona Woolf
I am delighted to be visiting Kenya during my year as Lord Mayor. The UK is fortunate to have such a deep and long-standing relationship with Kenya. We are bound together by strong ties that benefit both our nations. As Lord Mayor, I am the ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services community and part of my role is to cheerlead for British industry. In Kenya, this presents no difficulty at all.
In fact, the figures tell their own story. The UK is the largest cumulative investor in Kenya and in 2013 was Kenya’s largest export market outside the African Union. Kenya is the top Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination in East Africa for UK companies with total trade of around £1.3bn. UK exports rose by 14% from 2012 to 2013. The two largest private sector employers in Kenya are British companies, and more UK nationals visit Kenya than any other country.
Kenya is in the middle of a period of huge growth, and the UK is in prime position to support this growth and to help Kenya to become the regional and international business centre that it has the potential to be. UK firms have a long history of success in the traditional Kenyan sectors of agriculture, food, drink and more recently, telecoms. The UK is the global leader in financial and professional services and is home to the world’s leading professionals in areas like infrastructure, finance, and legal services.
UK firms are now leading a ‘new wave’ of investment in Kenya in these areas – and across other key enabling sectors such as energy, education and aviation – which will drive the whole Kenyan economy towards delivery of Vision 2030. In Financial Services, the UK is helping Kenya insure against risk and raise the funds for big infrastructure projects. We expect my visit to deliver over Ksh7.5 billion in new business across the sector. The Energy sector, powering Kenyan economic industry and growth, will see an additional Sh7.3 billion investment by UK companies in Geothermal, Solar, Biogas and Wind within Kenya. Significant new announcements are also expected in the sectors of Education, Skills and Training, helping to deliver the workforce that will propel Kenya to middle income status; and Aviation – connecting Kenya with the world.
If Kenya is to fully take advantage of its pole position for FDI, it is crucial that it possesses the world-class infrastructure to match. UK companies have the expertise to make this a reality, with leading firms able to advise and consult on all steps from concept to delivery, including architecture, engineering, infrastructure financing, project management and construction.
Crucial to the delivery of such infrastructure is a strong, fair and consistent legal system, and Kenya’s sound grounding here can be supported by British legal experts who can advise on the legal aspects of crucial infrastructure projects. While I am in Kenya, I will be attending a legal services networking breakfast, which has been hosted by the Law Society of Kenya and the Law Society of England and Wales to launch a partnership between our two nations to provide training and capacity uplift for Kenyan legal services. As part of the breakfast I will also be officially extending an invite to lawyers to attend the Global Law Summit 2015, another opportunity for greater collaboration between our nations and for new relationships to be built in our legal community.
The other cornerstone that underpins growth is skills. Supporting employees to acquire workplace skills will grow Kenya’s economy in every direction. As only the second female Lord Mayor of London in 800 years, I’ve been using my mayoral year to bang the drum for diversity – we have to make sure that within the business community we are deploying all the skills of all our human capital, whatever their race or gender. Only then can we be sure that we have the best chance of achieving long-term business success. I am delighted that the Kenyan business community takes this so seriously, and I am looking forward to attending the event and helping further the case for diversity across the borders.
I hope that this visit, and the new wave of investment by UK companies it will bring, will serve to underpin the modern, vibrant relationship which our two countries enjoy; and in doing so take us forward towards our shared goal of a more prosperous and secure Kenya.
Alderman Fiona Woolf is the Lord Mayor of the City of London and global ambassador for UK-based financial and business services. She will visit Kenya from 16-17 September.