How Kenyans in France club initiated Sh5.7bn projects – Business Daily
Kenyan and French businesspeople during a gala organised by the Kenya France Business Club in Paris in September 2021. PHOTO | POOL
Trade between Kenya and France has gradually been growing over the years with Nairobi exporting Sh11 billion ($90.9 million) in goods last year, according to United Nations Comtrade database on international trade.
France’s shipments to Kenya on the other were valued at Sh22.4 billion ($184 million).
Firing this growth has been bilateral ties signed between the two countries, and then there are small non-state actors such as Veronica Kariuki’s Kenya France Business Club (KFBC) based in Paris that has facilitated projects valued at Sh5.7 billion (46 million euros) to date.
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Ms Kariuki, an international relations professional working with a United Nations organisation did not set out to form the club.
“Having lived in France for many years, I had established a lot of networks,” she says. At first, it was individuals looking to set up businesses in Kenya who would approach her with inquiries.
“I started by providing business linkages as an individual, but soon interest was coming from French companies seeking a presence in Kenya.
I quickly realised that creating an organisation as a platform to accomplish the mission was more impactful,” explains Ms Kariuki.
She linked up with other like-minded Kenyans living in France to form the association in 2016. Their mission is to establish business linkages, promote cultural exchange and engage in the promotion of social initiatives.
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When starting, the initial three founders had full-time jobs and the club was a venture for their free time.
With their busy schedules, forming the association that was registered under the French Association law in 1901 was their best option since it did not require capital.
They later co-opted 15 other members who paid fees of 100 euros per person.
“When we held our first edition of the Business Beyond Borders (their flagship networking programme), the members had to fund the event from their savings.
We did not have any sponsors, but we had the network and an ambitious plan to succeed,” says Ms Kariuki.
That first event attracted support from big business and government personalities such as former Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman and current chair of Nairobi Securities Exchange Kiprono Kittony, former Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, and several county governors.
“That gave us a lot of credibility and confidence thus securing the business community.”
Today KFBC organises events where businesses meet and create synergies.
This has led to the formation of several business relationships. The club is active in multiple sectors, from agriculture to real estate, infrastructure, and technology.
So, which are the most sought-after sectors by the investors making inquiries at KFBC?
Kenya France Business Club co-founder Veronica Kariuki. PHOTO | POOL
Ms Kariuki says Kenya’s energy and infrastructure sectors are high-demand areas for French investors and companies. One of the most important questions is: What are the criteria used to analyse viable projects?
“First and foremost, the project must be economically viable. It must demonstrate a capacity to generate economic value.
Secondly, we consider the project’s impact both socially and environmentally.
She adds, “An ideal project for us is one that not only creates economic value but also transforms the lives of people and has a positive impact on the environment.
Their main consideration is that these projects have a significant impact on people’s lives both in Africa and in Europe. We seek to promote transformative business.”
She noted that besides energy and infrastructure, other opportunities in Kenya for French companies are in healthcare.
“In France, we have opportunities for Kenyan companies, especially in the digital services to an economy that is heavily reliant on them.
These include web development, maintenance, software development, design, and customer service,” she says.
Despite creating a strong foundation and a team, acquiring the necessary funds to run the association has been a major challenge.
The club however plans to solve the problem by creating revenue streams that will make it self-sustaining.
Most of the sponsors of the club include Dassault Systemes, Growth Supply, World Remit, Kenya Airways, and the Chamber of Commerce Ile de France.
After the long Covid-19 pandemic, KFBC is now focused on large-scale projects and spreading its reach beyond France and Kenya. One of the areas of focus is the creative industry.
“We view it as a large employer in the future. We would like to accompany creative enterprises in delivering world-class quality delivery that will boost their international reach,” comments Kariuki.
“We hope to evolve into a multi-business unit company and have a KFBC foundation that will cater to cultural and social initiatives.
We believe that culture and society are the fabric that holds together a well-functioning business ecosystem.”
Kenya and France have had a long business relationship ranging from the export of agricultural products to tourism.
There are several major French multinationals operating in several industries in Kenya inclusive of manufacturing, private equity, and energy.
The key players in the country include Bolloré Group which is a logistics firm, automaker firm Peugeot, food group Danone and development finance institutions known as Poparco and Amethis France.
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