American tycoons scout for ICT, agritech deals in Nairobi


Agriculture technology farmer man using tablet computer analysis data and visual icon. FILE PHOTO | COURTESY

American investors have given priority to deals in ICT, apparel and agriculture after the Biden administration targeted Kenya as a key trading partner on the continent to “develop durable solutions that advance supply chain resilience” for the world’s largest economy.

The businessmen attending a two-day investment meeting in Nairobi are scouting for multibillion-shilling deals with Kenyan firms in the presence of President William Ruto on Thursday, organisers said.

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The majority of the US entrepreneurs, who have been accompanied by top Biden administration trade officials for Africa, are largely hunting for deals in ICT, agricultural technology as well as apparel and textiles, the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham)-Kenya said.

Maxwell Okello, the AmCham Kenya chief executive, said ICT remains the biggest area of interest for the US investors at a time Nairobi is “slowly bringing into a reality” its ‘Silicon Savanna’ tech hub dream.

“We see depth in terms of American companies participating in or looking at that space [ICT],” Mr Okello said on the sidelines of the two-day AmCham Business Summit which started on Wednesday.

American firms are further keen on deepening investment in farming space with their sights on agritech and mechanisation, while opportunities in value addition for apparel – Kenya’s largest export to the US – are also of interest, he added.

The annual Summit, which Dr Ruto is scheduled to attend on Thursday, comes after Washington disclosed it was looking at Nairobi as part of a wider strategy to strengthen its supply chains which have been broken in recent years following Covid pandemic curbs and economic sanctions as a result of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine.

“Supply chain resilience is at the heart of all our trade initiatives including the IPEF [Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity]… and the Americas Partnership,” President Joe Biden’s 2023 Trade Policy to the Congress, published March 1, reads.

“The Administration is also highlighting this issue bilaterally, including with partners like the European Union and Kenya, and in multilateral fora like the G7, G20, and APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation].”

US Ambassador Meg Whitman said Kenya, a gateway into the East African region, is increasingly positioning Nairobi as “the premier destination” for technology and innovation investments on the continent.

“It's an exciting time to be doing business in the region, creating more jobs and promoting US-Kenya shared prosperity,” Ms Whitman said.

“Kenya’s largest export market is the United States. And we feel Kenya is ready for export liftoff as it diversifies.”

Trade between the two countries is fairly balanced with Kenya exporting goods estimated at Sh81.17 billion to the US under the more-than-two-decade-old Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), while buying consignments valued at about Sh93.43 billion in 2022, according to provisional official trade data.

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The two countries have planned to hold the second round of talks for the proposed US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership in April in Nairobi after Washington hosted the opening round last February.

“The skill, the entrepreneurship and the hard work of our people is our oil,” Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria told the Summit. “We must remember that Kenya is not just Kenya. Kenya is a gateway to the market.”

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