Why is Kenya a good place to invest? What does Kenya have to offer to the budding entrepreneurs?
Well, I have been coming and investing in Kenya for 20 years, so I speak from experience when I talk about investment in Kenya. We own Kenya Data Network, Liquid Telecom, which does the entire fibre infrastructure here in Kenya. So I have been here for a while as an investor. As I think about why we are here, first of all, this is a country with a strong entrepreneurial culture, and strong institutions that support investment.
Because it is not just the ability to invest, you have got to be able to hire people if you are going to build a strong business. You have got to have skills – Kenya has strong skills and a lot of people that can be trained and developed, which is what we want. So I have always been comfortable about investing in Kenya and encouraging others to invest. There are many people that are here invested in Kenya that are encouraged to come here.
What was the outcome of the meeting that you just had with President Kenyatta?
So a few weeks ago, a good friend of mine, Richard Branson, who came with me here, called me and said “Look, what can we do to improve access to energy, particularly for the rural people? What are your thoughts?”and he was together with some leading philanthropists, like Larry Page, the founder of Google. And they were saying, “We want to invest and help small African companies build into big giants in the energy sector – what can we do?” So we discussed it and said, lets go to Kenya: there are some great things happening in Kenya. It is a great business environment; we are invested here, so that is why we are here.
So the group of us came, it’s a group of philanthropists, some of them were not able to be here but you saw some great business people here today and essentially what we are trying to do is to invest philanthropic resources, we aren’t doing it for profit, but we are doing it to help young people set up ventures in the energy sectors. We want them to develop a whole new industry. We believe that a new industry is emerging around renewable energy, which will be as big as Safaricom; any of these great big companies. In fact Safaricom were here with us as part of the delegation. So we believe, what you saw in the mobile sector, ten years from now energy would be driven in the same way. The time has come that we have energy access for everybody. The same way that you have a mobile phone, you should also have full access to energy in your home and for your business. So we are looking at some revolutionary new technological ideas, which we believe will power Africa into the future.
Were any figures discussed in the meeting with President Kenyatta?
Really this thing will draw billions of dollars. I’m not talking shillings. There’s a lot of money available. The kind of people who were here with us, as you know are very serious entrepreneurs and they are behind this initiative. So a lot depends on how we can engage with government to create the right regulatory framework and President Kenyatta was extraordinary in his enthusiasm and his support and his understanding, which is was we expected and that’s one of the reasons we came here.
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