Kenya, the Silicon Valley of Africa

The world is going through a new age of industrialization and innovations. With it a new era of Einsteins and Steve Jobs creating new tech and disrupting the socio-economic market. Africa, particularly Kenya, with its proud and ambitious nationals, is right there with the rest of the world. Kenya’s journey to position herself as the epicenter of innovation can be traced back to the year 2007. Kenya’s first major success came in 2007 with the wildly popular mobile money service, Mpesa. In March 2007. M-Pesa quickly captured a significant market share for cash transfers and grew to 17 million subscribers by December 2011 in Kenya alone. In the Fiscal Year 2019, 37 million active customers carried out over 11 billion transactions, averaging over 500 transactions every second. Mpesa is now available in 7 countries, has 37 Million active subscribers, and 396,000 agents spread across the 7 countries. The Kenyan government poured diesel on the flames in 2009 with TEAMS, the undersea fiber-optic cable that gave Kenyans cheap, reliable broadband—with average speeds faster than those in the US.

Kenya has shown steady growth since 2005, and in 2019, it stood at 89 billion USD. It ranks 6th in Africa in the GDP nominal statistics. According to the World Bank report of September 2019, Kenya’s growth rate in 2019 stood at 5.7 %, making it the fastest-growing nation in sub-Saharan Africa. The report further states that the GDP is expected to rise to 6% in 2020 due to growth in the industrial sector increased private consumption and a good rating in the service sector. Research shows that there is an emerging middle class, and the citizens are becoming more conscious of the value of goods and services.

The Mpesa innovation, together with a flexible mobile banking system and 4G internet connections, created new market opportunities for digital entrepreneurs. The Kenyan Govt has played a pivotal role and is at the forefront of technology development by luring investors through various incentives like subsidized taxes, double tax agreements, and various tax exemptions. Nairobi city has positioned itself as an investor-friendly city by being open to aid agencies, development funds, and foreign NGO’s. A look at the Kenyan financial markets will give you insight into how far the country has grown with investment opportunities. The afro-Asia fintech festival of 2019 was solid proof that there are massive innovators and promising startups. Hundreds of Kenyan startups are providing modern-day solutions. So why invest in Kenya?

Take a drive through Kenya’s Cities or major highways, and you will see for yourself. The influx of European and big western brands is a big tell. The margin of safety in this market is favorable and allows for an investment to be made with minimal downside risk. 53% of the Kenyan population is between the age of 21-59. This cluster alone comprises of the most educated and skilled Kenyans in our time. This millennial age group has shown a thirst for quality living and standards. With an ever-rising GDP in east and central Africa, growth prospects are high for this cluster. 70% of all startups solutions in Kenya are looking to cater to providing valuable goods and services favorable to this cluster.

If you are in the fintech business, you have come across the blockchain. Blockchain technology has created a new wave of the internet. It has changed how digital information is distributed. This tech alone has given opportunities to many Kenyan startups to bloom and ease the way business is done. Most startups have taken advantage of the Kenyan market, integrated such tech, and seen their businesses grow exponentially. In June 2020, Kenya’s PesaBase Emerged the winner in the Global Celo Blockchain Inaugural Camp – Edition One. Pesabase is a financial platform that provides African’s with a cheap and social option to remit and pay for goods and services.

So, what makes big corporations like Amazon Web Services, general electric, IBM, Toyota, Cisco Systems, Asus, just to name a few find Kenya favorable to fintech investments and the HQ for their Africa operations?

Technology/Innovation

Kenya is the hotbed of advanced technology and innovation in Africa. It leads to technology and mobile penetration that stood at 89.4 % in June 2017. Several businesses are using technology to boost their activities, such as Mpesa and Ihub. Many institutions have adopted cloud computing to offer their services and serve a large customer base. The use of technology enhances the quick manufacturing of goods for the benefit of the consumer. Fintech will find it easier to operate in Kenya and find skilled labor for its operation hence saving costs. The government support in all things ICT and putting in place policies that favor investment and innovations among the youth.

Strategic Positioning and Low-risk environment

Kenya is strategically located within Africa. Ease of movement is out of Kenya to the rest of the world is a piece of cake. Kenya opens up businesses to Regional markets within Africa. (COMESA)and is planning to be a tripartite business region.

Kenya offers a low-risk environment, peaceful and conducive for investors. In East Africa, Kenya ranks the highest in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and it has been a home for international and multinational organizations with headquarters in the country. In the year 2012, it attracted 12 equity deals that valued at more than $110.5 million. Some of the Multinational Companies that have invested in Kenya are Kiva and GSM. The report issued by PwC in 2015 ranked Nairobi as the most attractive city in Africa for FDI. The United States has the highest number of multinationals in Africa with headquarters in Kenya. China then follows the USA because of the excellent relationship between China and Kenya. The multinational investment is an indication that the firms have trust in Kenya, and have enjoyed a smooth running. Kenya is now being considered as the best center for oil and gas exploration and industrial production. Its position is attractive in that it could develop to a manufacturing and energy services center in the next few years.

Labour

Kenya is an attractive nation to invest in due to the availability of skilled labor. According to the reports by the standard media of 2020, Kenya ranks position 18/100 globally in English proficiency. These numbers translate to effective communication and an easily adaptable population that can work in different regions. Most of its citizens are educated, and there is a qualified staff that can be hired at reasonable pay. The curriculum equips the learners with varied skills that make them suitable to be employed at all levels of expertise.

Political stability

Political stability and favorable policies have promoted the growth of the financial sector in Kenya. Kenya is a multi-party democracy with a unicameral government. It has laws that protect private property and encourage investment. Being a highly industrialized nation is one of the visions stated in the Kenya Vision 2030. The vision aims to make Kenya competitive globally and offer its citizens a high quality of life. The concept recognizes financial services as one of the principal promoters of economic growth to achieve a GDP growth of 10% annually. Policies are in place to raise institutional capital through pension to deepen the financial markets. The aim to promote financial inclusion and source foreign investment are factors that Fintech investors should not overlook. Furthermore, Kenya has been a peaceful country for a long time; the reason why multinationals still consider it a favorable place to invest.

Work-Life balance

Do you want to unwind or take weekend getaways after a long week at work? Kenya offers the best experience in sightseeing and attractions you cannot get anywhere in the whole world. Watch the Wildebeest Migration in Maasai Mara. The wildebeest migration is a world wonder that continues to fascinate people from far and wide. If you miss the wildebeest migration season, worry not, head to David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and Adopt an Elephant as you learn more about conservation. You can Visit Ol Pejeta Conservancy and see the last remaining Northern White Rhino in the world and some other beautiful animals like zebras, gazelles, antelopes, lions, and giraffes. From nightlife to restaurants and technology, investors and visitors can’t run out of things to do while in Nairobi. Did you know Nairobi has a National Park and other attractions within the city ( only 7 km away!) where you can see lions and other wild animals? We kid you not! Google it as you pack your bags and take the next flight to Kenya once international air travel resumes.

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