Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry, KNCCI is a member based trade support institution. Its’ mission is to facilitate and promote a sustainable business environment for economic growth and prosperity. Eddy Nyadwa sat with the Chambers President Mr. Richard Ngatia to discuss how the chambers is enabling Business and Investment in the country.
Mr. Ngatia, how is it been working at KNCCI since you got into office in 2019? It has been a long and exciting journey I must say. Before I was elected the President of KNCCI, I was the Nairobi Chapter Chairman but then, the responsibility was not as much as what is demanded of me being the President now. It is very exciting serving all the 47 chapters.
There are multiple business groups and associations in the country. For clarity purposes and mostly to those who are not well conversant with KNCCI, what is it that uniquely distinguishes KNCCI? Actually the chamber has very a rich history. It was formed in 1965. At the time there were multiple business groups and it was very challenging to work with the government. The founding father of the nation in his wisdom then, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta then unified the entire private sector and that is how the chambers was formed.
The chamber is also a family member of 177 chambers across the world. We strive to make sure the business environment is conducive for our members and we unlock their potential. As of today, we are devolved and have active chapters in all the 47 counties.
When you came to office, you set out an ambitious agenda among them to grow the membership of KNCCI ten fold, to enhance advocacy for members’ interest and strengthening economic diplomacy. So far, where are you with this agenda? Looking at my manifesto, I promised a number of things. On membership, First I have strived to make sure that current members understand what the chambers is and get the know the value of being a member. That has so far happened through the visits I have made to the different chapters and the dialogues held with the members.
We are also reaching out to development partners to see how we can support our members in various programs as a value add to being a member of the chambers.
You know that at KNCCI we have three mandates: networking, advocacy and trade facilitation. I am working hard to ensure that our members network with themselves and then with other foreign investors who come in the country. On this we have collaborated with the ministry of foreign affairs.
On advocacy, we ensure that we lobby for favorable taxation and business policy in the country. We are currently engaging the legislature and national government in drafting a bill that will ensure that those who do business with government are paid within 60 days
On trade facilitation, we issue certificates of origin to those who export their products. The chambers also collaborate with the county government to ensure they support our members in terms of doing business and avoid double taxation.
Business need finances to grow, and so they sought for credit traditionally from banks. However, we know that credit from Banks is not cheap and is bureaucratic to access. What alternatives have KNCCI developed to help SMEs access cheap credit? We have formed a Sacco as chambers to allow our members borrow money country wide. This has enhanced access to credit especially to members. KNCCI has also partnered with the Kenya Bankers Association. In this partnership, we are basically building the capacity of members on how to apply for credit and the types of financing that is available.
We have also partnered with Kenya Commercial Bank under the Tujiajiri program. Here our members have also benefitted immensely from capacity building and skills enhancement. ABSA is also proving unsecured loans to our MSME’s that are our members. There is also the Inuka program under stawi, where six banks have come together to provide cheap credit of upto Ksh 250,000
It is said that Kenyans have high affinity to imported goods. We import a lot including none essentials and this creates an imbalance of trade. How is KNCCI supporting the Buy Kenya Build Kenya campaign? As a country, we should sit down with the manufactures, empower them and revive our industries like we have done with Rivatext. Once we enhance the capacity of our manufacturers, we should ensure that locals buy local products.
For example, In Nyanza and Mwea, we produce rice, but the rice we produce is not enough so we supplement by importing from other countries like Pakistan. However, our rice fetch a low price because the imported rice has flooded the market. We should perhaps put a policy that the government should purchase all the local rice at a competitive price. The imported rice should then be left for the private sector to be purchased at market rate. That way, we will be empowering and supporting our rice farmers.
KNCCI has grown and it is now in all 47 Counties, do you a working relationship with the counties through the Council of Governors? KNCCI has established a special working relation with the council of Governors. We are working within a frame work that is guided but a Memorandum of Understanding that we entered into.
We have worked very closely and continue to work with Business Advocacy Fund, BAF. We started by capacity building our directors so that they have a broader and richer understanding of key issues. We also working closely with CIPE. They are supporting us with tools of working.
With AGRA, we are exploring and looking at how we can support agribusiness in all the counties as we address challenges faced. Further to this, The world bank group is supporting us to ensure that there is dialogue with the counties on various business matters.
Let talk about Nyanza Region, what are some of the potential areas of investment in the region? It is very important to embrace the special economic zones. These will host start ups where they can be incubated and be prepared before they become SME. Again the industrial parks. As KNCCI we want to encourage the Jua kali sector to move from the road sides and utilize the industrial parks where there is proper infrastructure. From here it will be easy for any investor or development partner to identify and easily support them.
I also want to encourage the Jua kali sector to form groups and cooperatives so that it becomes even much easier to work with them as they sought for market for their products.
Further to this, in Nyanza region, there is the blue economy, thanks to the massive Lake Victoria which is a fresh water lake. KNCCI has partnered with UAE, Madagascar, Tunisia, Oman, Qatar and the Caribbean islands who would like to come and support us in this area. We want to explore what is in Lake Victoria other than tilapia.
The Kisumu port has been rehabilitated, the president will commission it. From KNCCI perspective, is that port viable economically? When the port will be rehabilitated and be fully operational, it will open up many opportunities. First, employment will be created for engineers, and Jua kali technicians to build and repair boats. All we need to do is to capacity build our people to take up such jobs.
The port will also open up transportation on the lake. Investors will bring in modern vessels and residents will benefit by being able to move freely and safely through the waters. With the railway line being rehabilitated, there is opportunity to get agricultural products from Nyanza to other parts of the country.
Lastly, Mr. Ngatia, you are man who has travelled vastly across the globe. You have in a number of occasion been part of the Presidents powerful delegation during state visits. In January this year, you were in England for the UK business Forum in London. In February, you joined H.E president Uhuru Kenyatta for the future of US-Kenya strategic partnership event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington. During such visits, what are the foreign investors saying about Kenya? During such visits, and they have been many, thanks to H.E president Uhuru Kenyatta. As KNCCI we accompany the president so that as the two government negotiate, we take the opportunities and make follow ups on the bilateral agreements. Mous have been signed with Russia, Japan and France
The foreign investors want to come and investment in Africa, they are seeking for strong partnership. They have seen opportunities to invest and do business. When they look at Kenya they see the hub of East and central Africa, which is a big strength. We have great infrastructure, good road network and our language is not a barrier.
Countries like Oman and UAE are now getting beef from Kenya. We are exporting a lot of goat meat and beef to these countries. When we talk to the foreign investors about the big four, they see opportunity. In housing, they are really looking at ways to partner with local companies to enable the big four.
We also market our country to get tourists, Morroco registers 10 million annually, while here were register only 1.9m. We are now working with such countries and travel agencies to put Kenya as part of the tourism circuit.
Within the orange economy we are looking at fashion. We want big brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton to come and exhibit here. Our young people can really thrive in this sector yet it is hugely unexploited.