Kenya PM shelves politics, woos investors

February 16, 2010 12:00 am

, TOKYO, Japan, Feb 16 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga arrived in Japan on Tuesday heading a delegation that is here for a series of meetings with political leaders and business executives aimed at drawing more Japanese investments to Kenya.

Top on the Prime Minister\’s agenda is to have large Japanese corporations like Toyota increase their presence in Kenya possibly by initiating a fully fledged motor vehicle assembly plant in Kenya to serve the Eastern Africa region.

The Prime Minister is set to meet top executives of Toyota Motor Corporation and Panasonic, among other business leaders and tour the Toyota plant in Nagoya.

He will also host a luncheon for the Japanese private sector before the end of his one-week visit where he intends to invite investments in development of infrastructure particularly roads, ports, energy and airports.

Accompanied by his deputy Uhuru Kenyatta and Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey, the Prime Minister said he is in Japan to sell Kenya, saying the country is hardly in the news here unless there is chaos.

At an interview with Japanese press, Mr Odinga said the last time Kenya was in mainstream Japanese news was during the election chaos of 2008.

He said the return of stability and the remarkable economic recovery have not been covered and remain largely unknown in Japan.

Mr Odinga is set to hold meetings with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, former Prime Minister Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, President of JICA Ms Sadko Ogata, Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Katsuya Okada and Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa.

He is also to meet the Royal Family of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess at the Imperial Palace.

Mr Odinga said the Japanese have not invested in Kenya as they should due to concerns that the Kenyan economy is too small for their large corporations.

He said Japanese firms coming to Kenya should have East Africa as their market and Kenya as entry point.

He said the upcoming declaration of a common market by the East African countries should be enough incentive for Japanese corporations and Kenya offers the best entry into that market.

He asked Japanese firms to look at opportunities in Kenya in the long term, saying that has been the driving spirit for successful Japanese businesses.

Turning to corruption, the PM told Japanese media that Kenya is not any more corrupt than her neighbours but is more open.

"Unlike our neighbours, we talk about corruption. It is not that we are more corrupt than our neighbours. It is that we are more transparent and our neighbours are more opaque," Mr Odinga told a press briefing on arrival in Tokyo.

He said most of the corruption cases soiling Kenya\’s name today are inherited from an era when the vice was the norm in the country and nobody talked about it.

"Corruption is like a cancer. It strikes then spreads its tentacles if it is not stopped. That is what happened to Kenya. Corruption struck, and nobody talked about it. It has been with us for so long that we cannot end it at once," the PM said.

"In the past, nothing happened about corruption and nobody talked about it. Now people talk about it and something happens when it is discovered," he added.

Others accompanying the Prime Minister are assistant Ministers Harun Mwau, Richard Onyonka, Transport PS Mr Silas Njiru, KenGen CEO Eddy Njoroge and the chairman of the Geothermal Development Company Paul Gondi.


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