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Finland seeks to boost foothold in East African bloc

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Finland’s Ambassador to Kenya Sofie From-Emmesberger

Finland’s Ambassador to Kenya Sofie From-Emmesberger.  

By David Herbling

Posted  Thursday, January 3   2013 at  22:57

In Summary

  • Finland has already opened a trade office in Nairobi which acts as a facilitation hub to help Finnish businesses set up base in East Africa.
  • Finnish investors are eyeing opportunities in sectors such as energy, telecommunications, engineering, building and healthcare services.
  • Finland also wants to share with Kenya its successful economic turnaround that saw the country bank on innovations, problem-solving and technology to become an industrialised nation.

Nokia is undoubtedly Finland’s most well known product in Kenya. But now, the Scandinavian country is keen to have its presence felt in the region by aggressively enhancing trade, cultural and bilateral relations with not only Kenya but also her neighbours in the East African Community.

Finland has already opened a trade office in Nairobi which acts as a facilitation hub to help Finnish businesses set up base in East Africa.

Finnish investors are eyeing opportunities in sectors such as energy, telecommunications, engineering, building and healthcare services.

Wärtsilä Oy, a Finnish energy company, has won multiple contracts in the energy sector to build substations for electricity supplier Kenya Power.
The Finnish Embassy in Nairobi, which was established in 1974, covers Uganda, Seychelles, Eritrea and Somalia.

The value of Kenya’s exports to Finland has grown by 38 per cent from Sh894 million in 2007 to Sh1.2 billion in 2011, buoyed by increased uptake of Kenyan tea, coffee and horticultural produce.

Finland also wants to share with Kenya its successful economic turnaround that saw the country bank on innovations, problem-solving and technology to become an industrialised nation.

The Programme for International Student Assessment, a global study of 15-year-old school pupils’ academic performance has consistently ranked Finnish learners top in reading literacy, mathematics and science.

The Business Daily spoke to Finland’s Ambassador to Kenya Sofie From-Emmesberger who outlined the European Union member country’s trade, cultural and bilateral relations with Kenya. Here are the excerpts.                 

How do Finnish businesspeople view Kenya and the African market?

Africa remains a bit unknown to most Finnish corporates. However, we have been holding trade conferences to create awareness to investors from Finland on the opportunities available in this region.

There is growing interest in Africa and we believe there is a lot of potential for investments here, especially in energy, telecommunications, construction and healthcare.

In 2010, we set up FinPro, the Finnish trade promotion agency headed by Mr Esa Rantanen here in Nairobi to promote trade between Finland and Kenya and also to help Finnish companies to set up in the country and the EAC bloc.

We think Africa has enormous opportunities for business. Kenya is particularly special for us. There is a robust ICT sector and innovation in the mobile apps segment such as M-Pesa.

The people are highly learned. English is also the official language and Kenya follows the common law system hence we share many values.

Nairobi is fast evolving into a hub for many global businesses who want to access the larger EAC market.

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