Counties may have wasted millions of shillings in investment forums since Kenya lacks a legal framework to guide governor-foreign investor engagements.
A one-day forum convened to discuss the Kenya Investment Policy heard there was an urgent need to empower counties to directly attract foreign investments including implementation of crucial projects on private-public partnership arrangements.
Embu chief officer John Mwangi said they had engaged Chinese investors keen on funding construction of hostels, but everything fell apart despite the viability of the project.
The construction was expected to help their university increase student accommodation.
Siaya County’s trade and industry executive Hezbon hailed formulation of the policy, but called on counties to be consulted to fast-track its adoption and eventual enactment.
County investment teams have so far ventured abroad, but no practical deal has been reached due to the legal vacuum.
“We are seeing local investors moving to Uganda since it is cheaper to put up factories there and import raw materials than put up factories in Kenya. As a country we need to look at this issue afresh and help local investors flourish for future partnership with foreign investors,” said Uasin Gishu’s trade executive Phillp Melly.
Kenya Investment Authority managing director Moses Ikiara welcomed the county governments’ engagement saying the policy will create a one-stop shop licensing office for both counties and national governments.
Kenya Private Sector Alliance vice chair Rita Kavashe said the country attracted bad publicity on interference of foreign investments by locals like in Laikipia County where grazers occupied large swathes of privately owned conservancies.
The policy draft seeks to make it easy for foreign investors to get work permits and reduce costly requirements for investors’ licences.
The past five years have seen nearly all counties host investment forums covered on TV where they invite local, national and foreign investors to engage them on existing opportunities.