Kenya eyes tech investment from US to boost trade ties
NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenyan President William Ruto on Friday addressed leading U.S. technology companies and investors at a U.S.-Kenya Business Roadshow in San Francisco.
The business forum was organized by the U.S. Government’s Prosper Africa initiative and the U.S. Embassy in Kenya.
The roadshow highlighted the business and investment potential in Kenya’s booming tech sector. Participating U.S. companies included Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Kyosk and SunCulture.
The event, held at the Mission Bay Conference Center, was part of a three-city U.S.-Kenya Roadshow tour showcasing opportunities for companies exploring doing business and investing in Kenya.
Dubbed the Silicon Savannah, Kenya has built a bustling tech sector and has the opportunity to position itself as the premier destination for tech sector investment and innovation in Africa.
“Nairobi also has a vibrant technology community known as the Silicon Savannah and the Kenyan government is committed to establishing Nairobi as the premier destination for tech sector investment and innovation in Africa,” said U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman. “These are many of the reasons why global businesses are considering or should consider, Africa – and specifically Kenya – for trade and investment opportunities.”
The technology ecosystem in Kenya is already thriving, with one of the highest rates of venture capital investment on the continent. While venture capital flows decreased by 35 percent globally last year, total funding in Africa actually increased by 8 percent. In Kenya, investment increased by 33 percent, one of the highest growth rates on the continent.
In 2022 during the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit, a new Presidential initiative – Digital Transformation with Africa – was announced. Delivering on commitments made at the Summit under this initiative, Prosper Africa launched the Africa Tech for Trade Alliance to accelerate e-commerce and digital trade and address legal, regulatory, and logistical bottlenecks. Alliance members include world-class tech companies such as Cisco, Amazon, Google, Intel, Mastercard, Visa, and Paypal. Several Alliance members were in attendance at the event.
Prosper Africa Coordinator British A. Robinson announced a new co-investment with Semiconductor Technologies Limited (STL), a Kenya-based semiconductor manufacturing and nanotechnology company, valued at $1 million, to build 15 semiconductor tools for domestic sales and export by 2026, and expand the number of Kenyan engineers and skilled technicians.
Kenya’s Head of State cited the installation of a pro-business tax regime as one of the means through which the Government aims to court foreign investments.
“A more investor-friendly environment will allow businesses to innovate, thrive, and create more economic opportunities for the people. We have also eliminated VAT on exported services and abolished tax on stock-based compensation for employees of start-ups” he said.
He assured global firms of Kenya’s ample supply of energetic, gifted, and skilled human capital “who are responsible for driving the country’s tech sector”.
“We continue to develop a workforce fit for the changing world.”
The Head of State pointed out that Kenya is also supporting entrepreneurs through the creation of a digital hub in every ward.
“This will offer learning and innovation to more than one million talents. This incredible talent pool will serve your businesses.”
At the same time, the Kenyan head of state invited American technology companies to set up manufacturing operations and regional offices in Kenya.
The President said Kenya has a conducive environment for investments in technology and manufacturing.
“Kenya is a full package investment destination; economically stable, entrepreneurial, secure, innovative with a favourable tax environment, skilled labour force, technological expertise, green energy credentials and a gateway for six undersea fiber-optic cables providing reliable data connectivity,” he said.
The President was speaking when he met Chief Executive Officers Tim Cook (Apple), Patrick Gelsinger (Intel), Google’s Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet Ruth Porat, Brad Smith (Microsoft COO) and other executives from Microsoft, Nike, GAP and Levi Strauss in San Francisco, United States.
He assured the investors that the Government will carefully consider and address any concerns they may have to increase their confidence in Kenya.
American companies expressed confidence in the country as an ideal investment destination.
Cook said Apple will consider setting up a developer’s academy and will also tap into Kenya’s green data centre potential.
Intel, Mr Gelsinger added, views Kenya as a good investment destination.
Mr Smith said Kenya’s impressive returns on investment position it as an appealing destination for American venture capital.
He noted that Kenya, despite offering solutions with broader applicability to connectivity and energy, remains largely unexplored.
Ms Porat said Google has committed to investing USD 1 billion in Africa to bolster its digital training and innovation initiatives.
Visa Global President Oliver Jenkyn said Kenya has played a vital role in enabling Visa to establish a strong presence in the East African market.
He said the organization has picked Kenya as the only African country to host Visa’s global digital innovation studio.
“Less than a year ago Visa made a commitment to invest USD 1 Billion in Africa over the next five years and a large portion of that is going to Kenya,” he said.