The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: U.S.Presence in South Sudan to Benefit Business

Kenyan companies seeking to expand reach to South Sudan will benefit from a stabilising American presence in the new country, according to global risk consulting and advisory firm DaMina Advisors.

The firm singles out financial, consumer and retail companies as key potential beneficiaries of America's closeness with the Kenyan neighbour in its '2013 Africa Periscope' report released on December 30, 2012.

It says the US is likely to increase attention to Juba under incoming Secretary of State John Kerry who has been nominated to President Barack Obama's Cabinet for his second term presidency.

Several Kenyan firms have already made in-roads in South Sudan particularly in the financial services and consumer goods sectors, with numerous others expected to open shops in 2013.

Retail chain Nakumatt has plans in the pipeline, while Uchumi Supermarkets has in the past been noted as eyeing the Juba market, in what is seen as intensified regional competition among Kenyan retailers.

"We have identified two or three spaces in Juba and we'll take whichever is ready first. Construction (of the malls) will start in April, so, that means we will open business next year," Atul Shah, Nakumatt's managing director, told the Star on phone.

He said the retail chain plans to invest $2 million (Sh172 million) in its first Juba branch. "That stability is important for everyone, and I'm sure they will work on that to make it good for doing business," said Shah.

Uchumi Supermarkets chief executive Jonathan Ciano however says his firm has no concrete plans for South Sudan at present.

"We have nothing on the ground for South Sudan for now. But we have said before that we are indeed exploring East Africa," he said yesterday.

UAP Group, Co-operative Bank and Equity Bank are among Kenyan financial services firms already operating in the new market.

"South Sudan is now the new frontier for export business, (with) huge and tremendous opportunities heavily dependent on imports.

(There is) urgent need for Kenyan goods and services to access the market directly rather than through third countries," the Export Promotion Council says on its website.

DaMina - whose team comprises former senior government officials and business leaders across Africa - however warned that Kenya may not "have a normal relationship" with the US if Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto's coalition wins the March 4 elections, and risks isolation "by the West".

"A Kerry-led State Department is likely to make a major attempt to prevent International Criminal Court (ICC) indictees Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto from ultimately running in the March 2013 polls," it says.

DaMina nonetheless points out that "heavy handed interference by the US may also spur patriotic anti-colonial feelings in the electorate and possibly tilt the election towards (the two) as an assertion of national sovereignty."

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