2018 was a very productive year for the Business Ireland Kenya network and the year ended with a commitment between Kenya and Ireland to strengthen and grow economic and trade cooperation between both countries.
In October 2018, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, Simon Coveney, and Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of Trade, Cooperatives and Industry, Peter Munya signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) on Strengthening Bilateral Economic and Trade Cooperation between Kenya and Ireland during the bi-annual Africa Ireland Economic Forum in Dublin, Ireland. This reflected positively on the growing trading relationship between Ireland and Kenya and has BIK excited about future engagements.
There are plenty of other reasons that we should be pleased about 2018.
BIK saw an increase in membership and successful business engagements, we launched our new website, received a grant from the Government of Ireland’s Emigrant Support Programme, updated our Doing Business in Kenya Guide, supported the establishment of a European Business Council and elected a new chair and office holders to the BIK Steering Committee.
Looking back, the year started off with a first Breakfast meeting that was held on Friday, 23rd February 2018 at Capital Club East Africa in Nairobi. The focus of this meeting was on the Government’s ‘Big Four’ initiative centred on: manufacturing, universal health care, affordable housing and food security. Key inputs came from John Rogers, a BIK member from MML Turner and Townsend and representatives from the Ministry of Trade, Cooperatives and Industry and the European Investment Bank. BIK also carried out an online poll to determine what was important for our members and what we should endeavor to deliver in 2018.
The second Breakfast Meeting was held on Friday, 20th April 2018 and was themed ‘Enhancing Ireland-Kenya Business: Matching Irish Capabilities with Kenya Opportunities in Agri-Tech’ This meeting had diverse speakers and experts in the agri-tech space including, Mr Grant Brooke, the CEO of Twiga Foods, Dr Joyce Bwire, CEO of Dairy Africa and Lisa Kallback, Trade Representative of Enterprise Ireland. Other trade priorities discussed during the morning meeting included; an agreement on an inward trade mission to Kenya in 2018, completion of regional education sector study, development of an implementation plan for the Ireland Kenya Agri-food Strategy, planned visits to Marsabit, Mombasa, Kisumu including a trade focus and cooperation with Keninvest and KEPSA on specific areas of work.
On Friday, 6th July 2018, BIK held its third Breakfast Meeting of 2018. In his remarks the Ambassador offered the members some good new; several new Irish companies had expressed interest in the Kenyan market across different sectors that include: Food and Ingredients (Kerry Group); Engineering consultancy (Designer Group); ICT; Financial services (e-CFS); and Agri-business (Grasstech, Dovea Genetics). He also gave mention to the launch of the new Irish Government Global Footprint Strategy that seeks to broaden Ireland’s global presence and influence by 2025. The theme of this breakfast was on advancing Ireland – Kenya trading and investment opportunities in 2018 and provided an opportunity for feedback from the agri-food trade delegation that visited Ireland in June. The Chairperson of the Kenya Investment Authority also gave a well-received presentation on the One Stop Centre that the Embassy of Ireland has supported to establish.
It was another great moment when over 70 BIK members congregated at Movenpick Hotel in Westlands on 13th September for a Social Event. Ambassador Dr. Vincent O’Neill launched the BIK Doing Business in Kenya Guide – a key resource to assist Irish businesses get the information they need to understand, access and operate in the Kenyan market.
The third quarter Breakfast Meeting was held on Friday, 5th October 2018 at the Capital Club East Africa in Nairobi with some good highlights
The Ambassador informed members that the Irish Government‘s Africa Agriculture Development Programme (AADP), which supports joint Irish-Kenyan ventures in agriculture, had seen a number of successful applicants from Kenya and new applications would open in 2019. By September, two Irish-Kenyan joint ventures had been approved for grant assistance of over KES 20 million each for developing agri-business initiatives.
Members were also informed that the Embassy was developing a Catalytic Fund that will support Kenyan SMEs in the dairy/ livestock, fisheries and potato sectors through small grants. This will be launched in early 2019. In 2018 the Embassy had signed a grant agreement with KEPSA to establish a business hub to support SME members of the association, with a focus on women-led businesses. On 24th October, BIK hosted a very well-attended evening event on the opportunities for businesses to support social impact which was themed: How Small and Medium Enterprises can commit to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Kenya. Over 120 representatives of the business community in Kenya attended and listened to presentations from a very distinguished panel of speakers which included Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ms. Sanda Ojiambo, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Safaricom; Ms. Charity Wanjiku, COO Strauss Energy; Mr. Benjamin Gatland, Executive Director, Partner Africa; and Ms. Leah Kibe, Associate Director, KPMG. This was one of our flagship events for the year and will be complemented by further similar discussions and events on this theme in in 2019 and beyond.
The final BIK event of the year was our Business Breakfast Meeting and AGM on 7th December 2018 at which the Steering Committee provided an overview of the achievements of the network over the course of the year, and plans for 2019. A panel reviewed 2018 and anticipated 2019 from the perspective of the BIK members and featured Mr. Stewart Henderson – Chair of the East Africa Association, Mrs. Flora Mutahi – CEO Melvin Marsh International, former Chair of KAM, Mr. Gordon Odundo – CEO of Nairobi Hospital, H.E Dr. Vincent O’Neill – Ambassador of Ireland to Kenya and Mr. Gerald Kasimu, Head of Advisory Services at KPMG.
The BIK Network plans to grow further in 2019 in what should be an even more productive and positive year for BIK, with engaging and informative breakfast meetings, social events and a planned scoping study early in the year which aims to assess opportunities for BIK members in select counties outside of Nairobi. New members are invited to learn more about the network and come along to the first Business Breakfast meeting of the year on Friday 22nd February.