Thus far, Kenya’s economy depends largely on tourism, specifically safari tours. Travelers often spend the night in Nairobi, the region’s gateway to business, before their safari adventure. Kenya also benefits from pineapple production–a top five producer worldwide–through exporting both canned pineapple and juice concentrates. But there is much more to the booming country than tourism and agriculture. So what else is special about this east African nation?
Kenya is Young and Friendly
Youths serve as optimists for the future and in Nairobi, they keep the economy going. More than 60% of the population is less than 25 years old. Kenyans tend to be warm-hearted and welcoming to foreigners. While the national language in Swahili, many Kenyans speak English at a high level and are willing to converse with tourists about Kenyan culture.
While Kenya is sophisticated compared to its East African neighbors, the country still suffers from unemployment and poor infrastructure. Many of Kenya’s young cannot get jobs due to a lack of skills and opportunities.
The Diaspora Returns
Waiting an hour and a half for a pizza in Nairobi? Rotesh Doshi would rather not. After studying at the London School of Economics, he pursued work opportunities abroad. When he had the chance to bring United States-based franchise, Naked Pizza, to Nairobi, he took it and ran with it.
Although it is his hometown, Doshi found many challenges to setting up a business in Nairobi, including poor infrastructure, government bureaucracy and a short supply of skilled human labor. “You often ask yourself ‘is it worth it’ when a lot more things go wrong than right,” Doshi said. “But there is nothing else that I would rather be doing right now, especially being part of that growth story in my own country.”
Promising Entertainment Industry
Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar win for her supporting performance in 12 Years a Slave gives Kenya’s entertainment industry a ray of hope. With 40% of Kenya’s workforce unemployed, and 70% of those being less than 35 years old, successes like Nyong’o’s show young people that they can, in fact, make it in the entertainment sector, which can then boost the economy.
The government hopes to do this through establishing a film school and promoting the entertainment industry as a legitimate avenue for job creation. Kenya looks to Nigeria for inspiration. Nigeria’s film industry, referred to as “Nollywood,” produces about 50 films per week–many more than Hollywood and second only to India’s Bollywood.
Attracting New Businesses
Food processing giant Del Monte set up a Kenyan branch called Cirio Del Monte Kenya to take advantage of the region’s high-yielding pineapple production. In the technology sector, Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung announced plans for a new assembly plant in Nairobi, positioning the city as the East African center of operation.
With businesses like Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and IBM opening regional hubs in Nairobi comes the opportunity for more employment for the country’s youth. Foreign businesses that are setting up their African headquarters in centrally located Nairobi also benefit local businesses, like Kenya Airways.
– Haley Sklut
Sources: BBC, How We Made It In Africa, All Africa, US Embassy, Career Nation