US President Barrack Obama will travel to Kenya in July to participate in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Biz4Afrika takes a look at what this means for Kenyan businesses.

According to the United States press office, the 2015 GES – to be held in July 25-26 – will be a gathering of entrepreneurs, business leaders, mentors, and high-level government officials. This is the first time the summit will be held in sub-Saharan Africa and it is expected to generate massive benefits for the businesses, especially Kenya.

“There will be lots of publicity which is good for our economy, in terms of tourism and investment opportunities. For the SMEs, wait for trickle down, after the Obama effect…,” says X N Iraki, an economics lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta officially launched the 2015 GES on June 9 at Strathmore University. The launch was attended by young entrepreneurs who discussed and showcased their innovation.

Ms Christine Odero, the founder of Super Mamas – an online platform for parenting information – said there is need to harness the intellectual capital in Kenya where entrepreneurs are rising fast.

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“We are delighted about the summit because we hope to get investors who can tap into the various ideas we have that can promote business in the country,” said Taita Ng’etich, co-founder of Illuminum Greenhouses.

Darshan Chandaria, the chief executive officer of the Chandaria Group, urged President Kenyatta to ensure government systems are in line with growing businesses across the country to enable entrepreneurs to fully benefit from investment promotion initiatives.

The GES is a platform for connecting emerging entrepreneurs with leaders from business, international organisations and governments. The aim of the summit is to tackle critical problems like access to finance which remains a constraint for many aspiring entrepreneurs in countries where financial markets are less developed.

Some of the GES initiatives include supporting the creation, incubation and scale-up of promising and high-growth entrepreneurial ventures. The White House’s announcement alone on Obama’s visit is a big statement on Kenya’s entrepreneurial space, says the Kenya Investment Authority managing director Moses Ikiara. “We expect a very positive and quick impact on the tourism sector. The other sector we expect huge benefits is manufacturing,” he says.
The tourism sector has been performing poorly for close to four years now because tourists have been avoiding Kenya due to security threats posed by the Alshabaab terror group. “The arrival of the US president will show the world that Kenya is not as unsafe as they have been hearing in the media,” Ikiara says.

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In manufacturing, the leather and textiles sector has been the biggest beneficiary of the existing trade ties between Kenya and the US. This is due to reduced tariffs and lower costs of exports to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Official data show the total value of exports to the US stood at Ksh45.66 billion in 2014 which was mainly contributed by apparel and clothing exports. The uptake of coffee and minerals such as titanium ores by the US has also been rising steadily.

According to the Embassy of the United States, American trade delegations will arrive in Nairobi ahead of Obama’s visit, mainly to looking for investment opportunities and to renew business deals. “Kenya will benefit from investments from America before and after President Obama’s visit. Americans have invested in Kenya and will continue to increase as part of enhancing trade ties between the two countries,” says the US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec.

GES 2015 applications are still open for investors but the applications for entrepreneurs have now closed.

Visit Biz4Afrika for more information and great tips for Kenyan SMEs.

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