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Austrian investors show keen interest in Kenya

Austria’s Deputy Head of Mission Katharina Rauscher.
Austria’s Deputy Head of Mission Katharina Rauscher.  

Red Bull, the world’s most popular energy drink, is undoubtedly Austria’s most known product in Kenya. For motorsport enthusiasts, KTM motorcycles are renowned for their superior off-road capabilities.

Austria is now keen to bolster its presence in the region. The EU member state has established a trade office at its Nairobi embassy to help Austrian investors set up shop in Kenya and the EAC bloc.

The Austrian embassy was established in 1967 and covers Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi.

The Business Daily spoke to Austria’s Deputy Head of Mission Katharina Rauscher who outlined the country’s trade, cultural and bilateral relations with Kenya. Here are the excerpts. 

Why has Austria opened a trade office in Nairobi?

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There is increasing interest in Kenya and the East African Community (EAC) from Austrian businesses. Our bilateral trade relations are also developing pretty dynamically.

A combination of this and the general positive economic outlook for Kenya led to the decision to open a commercial office at the Austrian Embassy here in Nairobi in January.

We have previously been serving much of Africa from our Johannesburg office, from where we have been overseeing 23 sub-Saharan Africa countries.

We are convinced there are a lot of opportunities here for Austrian businesses. The Austrian Trade Office in Nairobi will also serve as an entry point to the larger Eastern Africa market, making Kenya the regional hub.

What is the outlook of Austrian investors on Kenya?

The perception of Africa has changed over the last few years. The continent was previously viewed as risky in terms of investment.

But now businesses are seeing opportunities here in Kenya and Africa in general. As you may know, six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa.

Most Austrians are familiar with Kenya and it has a good image as a holiday destination. Kenya is also an entry gate to the larger EAC market.

What sectors are of interest to Austrian investors?

We are keenly following the recent oil and gas finds. OMV Aktiengesellschaft, an Austrian oil and gas exploration firm, is particularly watching the developments very closely.

Vamed, which specialises in healthcare management, is interested in upgrading hospitals in Kenya. Already available on the Kenyan market are Silhouette frames for optical glasses.

There is also Austrian interest in the supply of specialised machinery such as fire engines and ambulances.

Rosenbauer is an Austrian brand and one of the world’s three largest manufacturers of fire-service vehicles.

RHI is also looking at opportunities in the manufacturing industry with its heat-resistant refractory products for the steel, cement, glass, lime and non-ferrous metals industries. Our outlook for Kenya remains very positive.

What is the status of trade between Kenya and Austria?

Fresh cut flowers are the main import product from Kenya. Other import items include fruits, vegetables, coffee and tea.

The total value of Kenyan exports to Austria has more than doubled from Sh467.6 million in 2010 to Sh965.7 million in 2011. In the first 10 months of last year, Kenya exported goods worth Sh737.6 million to Austria.

Major Austrian exports to Kenya are machinery and transport equipment, chemicals and related products, beverages and tobacco, etc. Austria also supplies KTM motorcycles used in Kenya’s motocross championships. Energy drink Red Bull is made in Austria.

Austria’s exports to Kenya have also grown twofold from Sh1.2 billion in 2010 to Sh2.3 billion in 2011.

How about tourism between Kenya and Austria?

Kenya has been a favourite destination for Austrian holidaymakers. The coast of Mombasa is quite popular with Austrian tourists. The number of Austrians visiting Kenya has been fluctuating.

It grew by a third to 7,138 in 2010 compared to 5,302 visitors a year earlier but slumped to 6,335 in 2011. In the 11 months to November last year, 4,808 Austrians had visited Kenya.

Are there opportunities for cultural exchange?

Cultural exchange is mainly through music, art and education. We have been bringing Austrian jazz musicians and DJs to perform in Nairobi. We have also organised joint concerts and workshops.

Around Easter, an Austrian conductor will perform Mozart’s Requiem together with the University Choir here in Nairobi. World acclaimed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was Austrian. We have a guest professor to the German Studies department at the University of Nairobi.

The exhibition, Nairobi — A State of Mind; which ran at the Goethe Institute and featured works by Kenyan and international artistes, was also showcased in Austria. There are a number of scholarship programmes to study in Austria.

Which are the areas of economic co-operation between Kenya and Austria?

Austria has phased out most official development aid programmes in Africa. Through the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC), we focus on selected countries which we have earmarked as priority areas.

In Africa, these countries are Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Burkina Faso. In Uganda, Austria makes substantial contributions to implementing water supply and sanitation projects.

In Ethiopia, Austria is promoting capacity development in health care and food security to enable institutions to run programmes and projects on their own in the medium to long term, a major step towards sustainable development cooperation.

We are not funding directly any programmes in Kenya. However, there are a number of Austrian NGOs through which we channel funds for projects in areas such as water and sanitation, rural development and education.

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