Washington DC — President Uhuru Kenyatta Monday witnessed the signing of agreements that will see two US companies invest $238 million (Sh23 billion) worth of projects in Kenya as he urged the US Government to facilitate the operations of American businesses Africa.
Taking cue from President Kenyatta's call, the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and Kipeto Wind Energy Company signed documents to close a $232 million deal in financing for the construction and operation of a 100-megawatt grid-connected wind power plant south of Nairobi.
The plant will provide a more reliable source of energy to the national grid and support the US Power Africa Initiative to double the number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa with access to electric power.
The second agreement signed in the presence of President Kenyatta when he met business executives of leading US companies meeting under the umbrella of the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU), was a $5 million letter of commitment in financing to expand the distribution network of Twiga Foods and improve food security and agricultural wages in Kenya.
The agreement was signed between Twiga Foods and OPIC, a US government agency.
Kenneth Namunje and Grant Brooke signed for Kipeto Energy and Twiga Foods respectively while Ray Washburne, the President and Chief Executive of OPIC signed on behalf of his organisation.
Addressing the US business executives, President Kenyatta assured them of his administration's commitment to remove any hurdle that could impede their operations in Kenya.
"Kenya is open for business and all we want to do is package our partnership in a way that it is mutually beneficial to you as a private sector and the people of Kenya," President Kenyatta said.
He invited more US investors to set shop in Kenya to benefit from the opportunities created by the Big Four development blueprint projects.
He said the Big Four agenda projects - pegged on boosting manufacturing to create jobs, food security, provision of affordable housing and universal healthcare coverage - present major opportunities for local and foreign investors.
The BCIU is a US-based organisation comprising 200 member companies. It helps its members to engage internationally by facilitating mutually beneficial relationships between business and government leaders worldwide.
In manufacturing, President Kenyatta said Kenya looks to increase the sector's contribution from 8.4 to 15 per cent by 2022.
"This presents major opportunities for local and foreign investors in areas such as agro-processing, textiles and leather, the maritime sector, construction, iron and steel, and oil and gas," the Head of State informed the meeting that was attended by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and over 20 top executives of leading American companies.
On food security, the President welcomed the proposed investment of $5 million by Twiga foods in the agricultural sector, saying more such investments were needed.
On provision of Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC), President Kenyatta said his government looks to roll out innovative health insurance options, set up local pharmaceutical companies, upgrade and manage healthcare facilities and set up specialised treatment centres.
"Given our long and well-established relationship, we can do more together and I invite the US companies to walk with us on the 'Big Four' journey," President Kenyatta informed the US business community.
He added: "With so many opportunities open to us and given our long and well-established relationship, the time is ripe to make a change in our business engagement."
The Monday meeting was the third the President was having with members of the BCIU, the last one having been held in 2015.
President Kenyatta said his administration has continued to improve the business environment with a view of providing a facilitative environment for private sector growth.
"Between 2014 and 2018, Kenya improved its ranking on World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index (DBI) by 56 positions from 136 to 80 and remains on target to get to the top 50 by 2020," the President said.
The Head of State pointed out that the economy remained buoyant and resilient, registering a 5.5 per cent average growth rate over the last 5 years in spite of a historic presidential election and weathering a major drought in 2017.
US Commerce Secretary Ross and BCIU CEO Peter Tichansky, commended President Kenyatta for creating a conducive environment for the private sector to thrive in Kenya.