Kenyan companies have been challenged to invest in the central African region to expand trade and cultural ties between the Eastern and Central African countries.
Kenya’s Ambassador to DR Congo, Republic of Congo, Gabon and Central African Republic, Dr George Masafu, said Equity Bank has, for instance, acquired majority shareholding in Pro Credit, one of the biggest banks in the region. “It will be the first Kenyan financial institution in DRC and it will help businessmen expand their interests in the region,” he said on the sidelines of the 11th All Africa Games, which ended in Brazzaville on Saturday.
“I have had meetings with Equity CEO James Mwangi, who has indicated the company’s ambition to be the hub of financial services in this region. Equity shareholding in Pro Credit is 79 per cent. It will start operating next month.” He revealed that UAP and Phoenix insurance companies will also open branches in DRC next year. “This will help us have medical insurance closer to avoid having to travel to Nairobi for medical services,” he said.
He said Kenyan service providers are in big demand in DRC, especially in major towns and urged Kenyans to break linguistic barriers that restrict their venture into the Francophone nations. “Instead of demonstrating in Nairobi streets for higher salaries, teachers, right from nursery to university lecturers, should learn French and export their expertise to this region,” he said. Dr Masafu said penetration into the region is more feasible through the northern corridor into Lubumbashi, Goma and Kivu, where Kenyans can provide retail services in the informal sector like transport and supply commodities. The Kenyan envoy said Kenya Airways has increased its presence in the route and is now the major link between Nairobi, Kinshasa and Brazzaville. “We have signed a bilateral air travel agreement, still at MoU stage, which has increased travel to 12 flights a week into Kinshasa, nine to Lubumbashi and three to Goma every week,” he said.
Other Kenyan companies with a presence in the region are Transcentury, whose affiliate East African Cables has the only cable production company in Central Africa. Dr Masafu urged Kenyans to extend their aggressiveness and dominance in athletics to commerce. “We can have Kenyan nursery school teachers to big industries all over Africa if only we can extend the same spirit that our athletes have in commerce,” he said. He said that the Kenyan Government is also collaborating with Brazzaville to manage parks and forests, which was initiated by the late Nobel Peace laureate, Prof Wangari Maathai.