Kenya to leverage special economic zones to woo foreign investors

RUIRU, KENYA - JULY 18: Coffee is roasted at Dormans Coffee on July 18, 2019 in Ruiru, Kenya. Dormans became Kenya’s first coffee roaster in 1950, and is one of the biggest exporters of coffee in the country. Despite a large domestic tea-drinking market, coffee culture in Kenya is on the rise, with a large rise in consumption in the past ten years. The country produces only one percent of the world’s coffee, but is better known in the industry for the exportation to specialty markets around the world. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

Kenya plans to leverage its special economic zones (SEZs) in order to attract foreign investors who will establish manufacturing plants in the country, a government official said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Coffee is roasted at a coffee factory in Ruiru, Kenya. /Getty Images)

Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary of Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development said that the SEZs will provide private firms with fiscal incentives and world-class infrastructure that will make Kenya an attractive investment destination in Africa.

“The special economic zones are a key pillar for Kenya’s industrialization agenda, value addition, and a platform to leverage and catalyze private sector investment from foreign investors,” Maina said during the virtual launch of a one-stop-shop web portal to boost communication, transparency and service provision for current and potential investors in the country’s special economic zones.

The web portal was developed with technical support from the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC’s) Kenya Competitiveness Enhancement Program.

According to government data, the East African nation currently has ten licensed SEZs that are operated by both government and the private sector.

Maina noted that the SEZs have been identified as avenues that can help scale up investments especially in the manufacturing sector.

She revealed that Kenya is keen to expand and diversify the industrial base because it will enhance wealth creation and employment opportunities.

The Ministry of Industry has set a target of increasing the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the overall economy from the current less than ten percent to 15 percent by the end of 2022.

Amena Arif, IFC country manager for Kenya, said that strengthening investment in industrial infrastructures, such as special economic zones, is key to growing Kenya’s economy.

The global lender said that it will continue to support Kenya to establish SEZs to facilitate investors’ access to essential infrastructure and simplified mechanisms for business registration and operation.

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