More economic news from Kenya while the campaign season continues to heat up

And in the key sector of immediate interest to the expat community, “Java House deal wins African investment award” from the Nation:

A multi-million dollar deal that saw Nairobi Java House sell a majority stake to a US private equity fund has won the Africa Investor of the year award in a ceremony that also honoured two Kenyan bank chief executives.

The transaction amount was not made public, but Mr Bryce Fort, the managing director of the equity fund, ECP, said at the time that it fell within the firm’s average deal size of about Sh5.1 billion ($60 million).

“The ECP is a strong believer in Africa’s growing middle class,” said chief executive Hurley Doddy in a video address to the Africa Investor summit after winning the award.

The Java House deal, which saw the Washington DC-based ECP acquire a majority stake in the Kenyan coffee chain, was made public early this year.

Here is the link to the story at Africa Assets.

Meanwhile, the IMF predicted 5.7% GDP growth overall for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2013 after 5% growth for 2012.

The Star reports that one group of analysts project that Kenya could near this average, reaching 5.3% growth in 2013 “but only if there is a smooth political transition with a clear winner in round one.”   The pre-election uncertainty and distraction of the campaign are weighing on the economy at present.

Upsidedown Freightcar

A key example of the progress and the frustrations in the Kenyan, and regional, economy, is found an op/ed column in the Sunday Standard from Polycarp Igathe, Chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, headlined “Inefficient railway system hurting national growth”:

Last month, I visited the port of Mombasa in the company of board members of Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and Kenya Shippers Council (KSC).

We witnessed firsthand, that at long last, chronic port congestion and inefficiencies are being tackled, bravely, by Kenya Ports (KPA), but timidly by Rift Valley Railways (RVR).

Gichiri Ndua, KPA’s Managing Director explained the gains, efforts and challenges at Kilindini port. Ship-to-shore gantry capacity has more than doubled, dredging of the port is complete and the new berth 19 is almost finalised allowing Port of Mombasa to handle a 16 per cent growth in cargo throughput. Some of the largest shipping lines are now able to call and enables Kilindini to become a transshipment port.

We confirmed that delays in cargo offtake and high cost of cargo transportation are the result of dismal failure in improving railway infrastructure in tandem with port infrastructure. Citadel Capital and Transcentury the major shareholders in RVR must simply know that they are failing the country in outstanding fashion.

Igathe goes on to write that the railroad bottleneck is a key impediment to regional growth, with Mombasa “the only port known in the world to rely 95 per cent on road freight”.  He hails reports of a new commercial contract between the Kenya Railway Corporation and China Roads and Bridges to start building a standard gauge rail line from Mombasa to Malaba as a “game changer”.  Read the whole piece for a Kenyan manufacturers perspective of what is needed for long term growth.

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