Stephen Hayes (left), President of the Corporate Council on Africa and Mike Blades, regional head of CFC Stanbic East Africa during a past meeting at the Intercontinental Hotel on February 26, 2014 Photo/DIANA NGILA
By KEVIN J. KELLEY
Monday, April 21, 2014
Kenya is becoming a more attractive destination for US companies and investors, the head of the largest US-Africa business group has said.
“I’m higher on Kenya than I was a year ago,” Stephen Hayes, president of the Corporate Council on Africa, said following a four-day visit.
“I was particularly impressed with what I was hearing from the private sector itself. Our companies say the situation is improving.”
The corporate council includes nearly 200 US and African businesses, including some of the world’s largest multinationals, such as Microsoft, IBM and Exxon Mobile.
Mr Hayes said the Kenyan government appears to be making progress in addressing issues of concern to US businesses operating in Kenya.
He acknowledged, however, that the country’s security problems are serious and “are not going to go away in the short term.”
But Kenya is not alone in this regard, Mr Hayes added, noting that “in Africa a lot of cultural change is occurring that elicits responses, both negative and positive.”
Although several large US corporations have offices in Kenya, the country is still not widely perceived in US business circles as one of the most advanced in Africa, Mr Hayes said.
Nairobi, he noted, has the most developed infrastructure of any African city outside South Africa.
He also pointed to innovations such as M-Pesa that have been spawned by Kenyan tech firms.
A trade initiative much touted by the US government during the past decade — the African Growth and Opportunity Act — “has not been important to Kenya” and has proved generally disappointing, Mr Hayes said on Thursday.
The Obama administration must decide whether to focus attention on improving Agoa or developing “new models” of economic partnership between the US and Africa, Mr Hayes said.
He said it is unlikely that the US Congress will approve a renewal of Agoa this year. The programme is due to expire in 2015.
Source: Business Daily.