Nairobi hosts international investment summit this week

Mr Darshan Chandaria. COURTESY  PHOTO

More than 200 business leaders and deal makers are expected in Nairobi this week for a high-level investment summit meant to link African entrepreneurs with potential investors from around the world.

Institutional and individual investors are expected to fly in for the two- day meeting that opens on Wednesday at the Villa Rosa Kempinsky Nairobi hotel, which is specifically cut out for deal-making.

“We have lined up high calibre of speakers and panellists from all over the world who bring game-changing insights into Africa’s business landscape,” said Lisa Lambie, the chief executive of Wharton Club of Africa, the organisers of the forum.

The summit comes at a time when East Africa, and Kenya in particular, has lined up a long list of multi-billion- shilling infrastructure projects meant to leapfrog its journey to a middle income economy under the Vision 2030 economic blueprint.

Top government and private sector decision makers are expected to directly connect at the forum and open partnerships that could culminate to deal closures in 2014.

“The fact that this forum is bringing together very high level decision makers means very high level investment decisions can be made,” said Darshan Chandaria, a director at Chandaria Industries.

Mr Chandaria described East Africa as ripe for a deal-making summit, saying the region has reached a take a takeoff point that could greatly benefit from partnerships. “Kenya, for instance, is showing real signs of an emerging market that is posting growth in all major sectors such as hospitality, technology and real estate,” he said. “Partnering with international players offers a new scope of scalability that could also allow local firms to diversify.”

The summit has been broken it into sessions that offer specific interest groups such as investment bankers, private equity and venture capitalists opportunity to interact with potential partners at a personal level.

Participants with investment ready deals will, for instance, have the opportunity to present them to the delegates and entrepreneurs and investment banks have entered their ideas for a competition whose winners will be known at the close of the summit.

Billionaire investor Manu Chandaria is expected to deliver the keynote speech at the summit that has attracted participants from Europe, Middle East and Africa. More than 100 multinational companies, investment banks, private equity firms, and sovereign wealth managers have signed up for the meeting.

The list of international investors includes JPMorgan, Citibank, PE firm Helios Investment Partners, as well as sovereign wealth funds KfW (German) and Proparco (French). High ranking government officials, including ministers from Kenya and Uganda, will also be in attendance.

Besides presenting local and regional investment opportunities to potential investors, the event will also help the entrepreneurs share intelligence on Africa’s business landscape covering factors such as returns, regulations, and risks.

The meeting comes at a time when Kenya has emerged as a key attraction for international investors seeking growth opportunities in Africa’s frontier markets.

The country has witnessed an increase in foreign direct investments in the past two years, with cash-rich international investors executing mergers and acquisitions of local firms.

The list of Kenyan companies where foreign investors have acquired majority stakes in the past one year include AccessKenya, Fina Bank, Mercantile Insurance, Interconsumer Products, Kenya Data Networks (KDN) and Swift Global.

Other majority acquisitions in the works include that of Scangroup and CMC Holdings which is a target of acquisition from Dubai-based Al Futtaim Group.

Another Dubai firm, Aramex, a sponsor of the investment summit, entered the African market through acquisition of two Kenyan courier firms in a deal valued at over Sh2 billion.

The firm acquired In-Time Couriers and One World Courier in February 2010, betting on the two firms to grow its foothold in the local and regional logistics market. Africa’s economic growth has been higher than in the developed markets that are still suffering from the negative legacy of the 2008 financial crisis, including weak consumer demand, banking and sovereign debt crises.

Analysts project expect African economies such as Kenya to maintain their upward growth trajectory in the long term, helped by increased domestic consumption and mineral resource production. “GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to strengthen to 4.9 per cent in 2013, rising to 5.3 per cent in 2014 and 5.5 per cent in 2015,” the World Bank says in a report released last month.

“Growth will be supported by a continuation of strong domestic demand and higher production in the mineral resources, agriculture, and service sectors.”