UK-Africa Summit: Uhuru promises business-friendly policies even as companies close shop in Kenya

The Jubilee government is working to eliminate obstacles the private sector faces in the country, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.

Speaking on Monday in London, President Kenyatta noted that his government will continue formulating business-friendly policies and encouraged more British investors to set shop in Kenya.

“We have tremendously improved the ease of doing business in Kenya. I think Kenya is now the third most attractive investment destination on the African continent,” Uhuru said during a leaders panel discussion session at the UK-Africa Investment Summit attended by over 20 African Heads of State.

“This is in line with our policy of recognising that we need to deal with all obstacles that prevent businesses from partnering with us to achieve our development objectives,” the President added.

Presidents Mohamed Ould Ghazouani (Mauritania), Nana Akufo-Addo (Ghana), and Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) and UK Secretary of State for International Development Alok Sharma at a panel discussion during the UK-Africa Summit in London on Monday / COURTESY/ PSCU

Other panelists included President Nana Akufo-Addo (Ghana), Mohamed Ould Ghazouani (Mauritania), UK Secretary of State for International Development Alok Sharma and the African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina.

President Kenyatta noted that as a result of the “vibrant policies” put in place, Kenya has in the last two years attracted more foreign direct investment than it has ever done at any other time.

“Programmes such as geothermal and wind power production have attracted foreign direct investment to the point that today about 70 per cent of all the power that we generate in Kenya comes from renewable energy sources.”

However, while the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2020’ index shows investing in Kenya has become easier, the reality on the ground is different. Kenya is ranked at position 56 out of 190 globally, five places up from position 61 last year.

Contrary to these statistics, many companies are closing down, “restructuring” and retrenching employees due to “tough business environment”.

Data from the Registrar of Companies showed 388 companies dissolved between March and August of last year, with many others on the verge of being struck off the companies register.

In September, for instance, the Registrar of Companies dissolved 95 companies,100 dissolved in July and 90 in May. At least 103 were dissolved in March.

At least 2,000 workers lost their jobs between July and October, even as more companies issue profit warnings and intentions to close shop.

Among the companies that sent home staff included East African Portland Cement Company, Telkom Kenya, Stanbic Bank of Kenya, East African Breweries Limited (EABL), Sanlam Kenya, Ola Energy, betting giants SportPesa and Betin, and media companies Mediamax Network and radio Africa Group Ltd.

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