By Thuothuo Anthony: Jamhuri News
The chairman of Kenya Vision 2030 delivery board and Equity Bank CEO Dr. James Mwangi and a team of staff this week completed a highly successful investment tour in the USA. The team was able to tour Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston and New Jersey during the five day campaign that pulled together East Africans in large numbers for firsthand information on investment opportunities in East Africa.
The team had visited United Kingdom in September 2016 in another massive tour where he urged Kenyans living in UK to take advantage of robust investment opportunities in Kenya.
Addressing East Africans in Boston-Massachusetts, Dr. Mwangi commended the diaspora community for significantly contributing to the well-being of the East African economies, reminding Kenyans that Kenya diaspora remittances have overtaken tourism and horticulture to be the leading foreign exchange earner. ”In reciprocation, the countries have started to acknowledge diaspora as part of mainstream economy” he said, adding that Kenya has already declared diaspora as the 48th county.
The African Union Vision 2063 has also recognized diaspora as a state in Africa, enhancing growth and development in the region.
Dr. Mwangi said that with East Africa as the largest diaspora in the USA, ”time has come to hold the mirror and say situations, circumstances and conditions have changed, and we can mirror the opportunities being generated in EA with those in the diaspora and then make rational decision on to what best favors us”
In his quest for the diaspora community to harness available investment opportunities in East Africa and Kenya in particular, he said the purpose of his tour was to bring the diaspora community to speed with current affairs in the region.
Dr. Mwangi highlighted numerous opportunities, touching on those generated by urbanization. ”By the year 2030, two-thirds of Kenyans will be living in urban centers which currently require massive investments particularly in housing, social infrastructure such as health and education.”
He added that retail trade, food processing, industrialization and logistics such as modern agricultural practices will be massive as the country experiences urbanization in the coming years.
Addressing the issue of credibility of some investment companies in Kenya that have in the past defrauded the diaspora communities, he said that investors need to be vigilant and be brave to question organizations before committing their investments. Dr. Mwangi said that they have listened to the concerns and they can recommended the use of Equity Bank’s long term investment partner, Optiven LTD that has been with them for nineteen years.
Dr. Mwangi also encouraged Kenyans that have formed SACCOS in the diaspora to build trust so as to gain traction and gain significant clientele in the competitive market. He offered to support them by providing Equity Bank’s APIs for linkages.
He also mentioned that as long as someone residing in the diaspora has a cash-flow, they could obtain education loan for study abroad.
Diaspora involvement in policy making and Voting
The diaspora community has been extensively involved in realizing vision 2030, starting with the political pillar where a diaspora policy has been formulated under the ministry of foreign affairs. It is now not only about diplomacy, but the diaspora as part of Kenya and the opportunities it could be able to provide to the economy.
Speaking to Jamhuri News in Boston, Dr. Mwangi said for the diaspora to be able to vote, there have been several pilot projects such as in Uganda and Tanzania’s previous elections, and it is expected that in the coming year, a few more countries with significant populations will be involved ”and gradually, hopefully by the year 2022, the whole of the East African diaspora will be completely integrated within the voting system, because it’s a huge process”.
Infrastructure and US-Kenya direct flights
Dr. Mwangi said investing massively on infrastructure and enablers is one of the main deliveries of vision 2030 to allow the economy to grow at 10% and to enable the private sector to become the catalyst for transformation of the country. ”Kenya has invested heavily in airports with hopes that the country would become a transport hub for Africa.”
The goal has been to upgrade international airports to class one, and Dr. Mwangi said there’s enough confidence that the inspection that was carried out in November will allow Kenya airways and American airlines to fly directly to US and Nairobi. ”We’re seeing the last of it….” he said.
Kenya international borrowing rate
Kenya will in the first quarter of 2017 return to the international debt market according to Bloomberg report. In response to this, Dr. Mwangi, said that ”Kenya’s debt to GDP ratio is 48 which is affordable and basically low for countries of its status”
He added that the good thing is that Kenya is borrowing to invest in productive projects and not in recurrent expenditure. This makes the economy grow even more rapidly. Over the last 8 years the country has moved from 2% GDP growth rate to 6.1% in 2016.
Dr. Mwangi said that there is enough confidence in the investments that Kenya has undertaken in the last four years to enable it to start generating GDP of between 7-8%