Business Ireland Kenya
Business Ireland Kenya (BIK) is an association that facilitates business networking opportunities for its members. We provide a platform and support structure for sharing information on business experiences in Kenya and Ireland, including local context, knowledge, opportunities, challenges, lessons learnt and interpretations of the countries’ evolving statutory and regulatory environments.
BIK is an initiative of the Embassy of Ireland in Kenya and was launched in December 2013 during the visit of former Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello. Prior to that, a group of Irish business people had formed a more informal network that met to discuss some of the bottlenecks for doing business in Kenya and to identify areas of common interest and concern. This served as the basis of BIK.
Today, we meet regularly and provide an online community for members to connect with opportunities and queries. BIK membership is open to Kenyan, Irish and international business people whose work promotes trade between the two countries. Learn more about the benefits of membership here.
BIK is led by a steering committee, co-chaired by the Irish Ambassador and an elected committee member. The committee comprises a further six volunteers who are experts in their fields of business and are voted in by the BIK membership. Meet the current steering committee and read about their backgrounds below.
Business Ireland Kenya will act as a conduit to other networks, service providers and linkages to potential local business partners for new Irish entrants to the Kenya market.
We also strive to enhance the facilitation of mutually beneficial relationships with other Kenyan and Irish entities promoting Irish interests in Kenya and between Kenya and Ireland, such as the office of the Irish Embassy, Enterprise Ireland, the Kenya Irish Society, Inter Nations, civil society and faith based organisations and institutions and to promote linkages to Irish business networks in other African countries – such as the Business Ireland South Africa (BISA), Tanzania and other regions.
BIK Core Values
1. To allow Irish persons doing or wishing to start business in Kenya to have a focal support organisation to call upon.
2. To ensure Irish people doing business are aware of each other and can provide mutual support.
3. To ensure business and trade grows between Ireland and Kenya.
4. To make Irish people better aware of business opportunities in the region.
The objectives of the Business Ireland Kenya Network are as follows:
- To provide networking opportunities for BIK members through the convening of regular meetings.
- To be better informed of the business environment and jointly address bottlenecks to doing business in Kenya and the wider region.
- To provide contacts and information that can be of use to BIK members – including through the development and servicing of a dedicated BIK website.
- To establish links with similar business networks in Kenya, with key business associations/representative organisations in Kenya and with other Embassy of Ireland supported business networks in Africa.
BIK Operating Principles
- The network is established to serve the interests of its members.
- The BIK will be co-chaired by the Ambassador of the Embassy of Ireland and an agreed representative of the Irish business community in Kenya.
- The work of the BIK will be planned by an oversight group comprising four to six BIK members. These will be nominated by the BIK, approved by the co-chairs, and serve for a period of 12 months (which can be extended).
- The BIK will be registered as a ‘Society’ with the nomination and approval of co-chairs, a treasurer and two account signatories. A formal report will be prepared each year and presented to BIK members for approval at an ‘end of year’ gathering of members each December.
- A schedule of meetings will be agreed at the beginning of each year. BIK members will be advised at least six weeks in advance of the dates of forthcoming meetings
- Exceptional meetings may be organised to coincide with events such as Ministerial or Trade visits, etc.
- BIK will meet on a quarterly basis. As a rule, breakfast meetings will be convened for a period of two hours, from 7.30 to 9.30am. An ‘end of year’ business/social event will we planned each December.
- Each meeting will focus on the presentation of key updates and a focus on at least one theme of relevance and interest to BIK members.
- Costs of BIK will be met jointly through a subvention from the Embassy and contribution from BIK members.
Ireland & Kenya
Ireland’s relationship with Kenya has a long history. Irish missionaries have contributed to Kenyan society for over a century, creating a legacy seen today in the work of Irish based non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
In the past, the Ireland’s embassies in Africa prioritised administering aid agreements, but the country’s new foreign policy provides for more balanced and mutually beneficial relationships. Embassies now engage in broader range of activities, including development cooperation partnerships, promotion of Irish business, and establishment of economic links and exchange in the arenas of sports and culture.
The Ireland-Kenya relationship features the Irish government’s official aid programme and Irish Aid, as well as Irish companies planning or already doing business with Kenya.
Irish businesses have been operating in Kenya for many years, recognising the opportunities available in the region’s largest economy. Additionally, Kenya plays a leading role in the political, monetary and economic integration of the East African Community. Through population growth, increased development, economic strength and changing consumption patterns, Kenya has become an attractive venue for increased investment and trading relationships with Ireland.
Trade between the two countries has grown significantly in recent years – spiking by 110 percent between 2005 and 2014 – and is expected to continue to grow in the future. Irish companies have continued to work in the country, and Kenyan companies are beginning to trade in Ireland to export locally produced products.
The Embassy of Ireland in Kenya opened in 2014 – one of eight opened that year and the 10th opened in sub-Saharan Africa – after previously closing an Embassy in Kenya in 1988 for economic reasons.
The Embassy in Kenya is staffed by three diplomatic officers from Ireland, who work with locally recruited staff to fulfil their responsibilities, including furthering the ties between Kenya and Ireland. From an economic perspective, this is achieved through the support of Irish businesses operating in Kenya.
Embassy staff also provide consular services for the approximately 1,500 Irish citizens in Kenya, support some development programmes funded by Irish Aid, promote Ireland’s culture and interests and represent Ireland at important political meetings and events.
In 2007, recognising the good relations between Ireland and Kenya, the Government of Kenya opened an Embassy in Dublin.
BIK Steering Committee
Dr Vincent O'Neill
Dr Vincent O’Neill formally presented his diplomatic credentials to President Kenyatta in December 2014, following his appointment by the Irish Government as Ambassador for the new Embassy of Ireland in Kenya. Dr O’Neill is also accredited to Somalia and Sudan.
Vincent has worked is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for over 20 years. A medical doctor by professional background with post-graduate training in leadership and management, he has extensive experience working across the Department and in the public sector in Ireland. With work experience in more than 20 developing countries, he has lived for over a decade in Africa, including in Malawi, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Kenya. Prior to his current appointment he served as Director for Policy, Planning and Effectiveness in the Development Cooperation Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin and Limerick.
As Co-Chair of the Business Ireland Kenya Network he works closely with the members and Steering Committee in ensuring the BIK network represents the interests of its members.
Lau worked for many years in a variety of positions for a Denmark-based multinational company and was stationed initially in Kenya, followed by Tanzania, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Thailand/Burma before returning to East Africa.
He left the group in 1998 and started his own companies in East Africa: Promaco Ltd., dealing in dairy ingredients and processing equipment; ProLab Ltd., a food laboratory services company; and Gazelle Ltd., dealing in equipment and services for the industrial printing and allied market segments.
Lau is also involved in the tourism and hospitality sectors on a board level.
Niall Meany is a project consulting manager at Oracle. He previously worked as a project manager for Chase Bank Kenya with 10 years’ experience in Financial Services.
He has also worked for the Bank of Ireland, from 2005 to 2013.
Jo is an accountant professional and boasts diverse management experience across business functions in the profit and non-profit (NGO) sectors, both in Europe and developing economies like Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and Kenya.
Jo holds a Masters in Governance & Development from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). She previously worked as the Country Director for GOAL in Kenya, an Irish non-profit organization.
Lisa is the Deputy Head of Mission at the Irish Embassy with responsibility for Trade and Development. Born in Kenya, Lisa grew up in Ireland and has lived and worked in Kenya and a number of other African, Asian and American countries.
Lisa studied business, economics, social studies and French at Trinity College Dublin and has a Masters degree in International Relations from Dublin City University. Before moving into the field of international development and humanitarian action, she worked at Microsoft’s European Operations Centre in Dublin. This was followed by over 12 years working in development and humanitarian response with the UN and with Irish Aid at HQ before being posted to Embassy Nairobi in 2017.
Kate is the CEO of Ukall, a Kenyan based software design and development firm. Kate is at the forefront of business process automation through building mobile and web solutions that allow organizations to improve efficiency, ensure accuracy and save time and resources.
Before co-founding Ukall, Kate worked in the technology industry both as a call centre operator and as a systems developer designing solutions primarily for banks. Her passion for technology entrepreneurship has seen her travel both locally and globally to learn, meet and engage with like-minded entrepreneurs. It has also won her and her venture various awards.
In her free time, Kate finds great reward in mentoring young entrepreneurs & supporting disadvantaged communities. She currently serves as a Trustee for St. Margaret’s Life’s Hope Foundation, a charity working to improve the livelihoods of children in Mpeketoni, Lamu.
LK Consulting founder Lisa Källbäck has over a decade of experience in international business development, with much of that time spent specifically in East Africa.
After studying Industrial Engineering and Management she went right into the world of international business. Her career has taken her to more than 20 countries in Africa on projects spanning a wide range of industries. As the founder and senior business developer of LK Consulting, Lisa has a proven record of success in assisting international companies in East Africa.
Kenneth is the Regional Commercial Attaché at the Embassy of Ireland.
His responsibilities range from promoting trade and investment between Ireland and Kenya to facilitating B2B interactions in both the Kenyan context, and at regional level with neighbouring missions. Kenneth holds a MSc in Economic Development and Policy analysis and a Bachelor of Commerce in Economics and Management.