IKM Advocates, a top tier corporate law firm in Kenya, together with International Project Finance (“IPFA”) East Africa, the largest and only international, independent, not-for-profit association dedicated to promoting and representing the interests of private companies and public sector organisations in Project Finance and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) throughout the world, hosted an Event dubbed “Special Economic Zones – A Bright Future for Kenya”. The high profile event was attended by Hon. Adan Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development and Mr. Enrique Antonio Huesca Fernandez, Executive Secretary of the Federal Authority for the Development of Special Economic Zones in Mexico, and brought together different stakeholders including SEZ developers, investors, financiers and industry practitioners.

Hon. Adan Mohamed, pointed out that SEZs will be instrumental in the delivery of the manufacturing agenda, which forms one of the Government’s ‘Big Four’ agenda items. He said that in addition to the two licensed SEZs – Tatu City and Africa Economic Zones, plans are underway to develop one of the largest industrial bases in Naivasha due to its proximity to geothermal resources as well as Dongo Kundu SEZ, which will be developed on approximately 1,500 hectares of land. He also noted that the SEZ Authority is currently reviewing close to one hundred (100) applications from prospective SEZ investors and the Government will be careful about selection to ensure that only quality investments, particularly those targeting under-developed parts of the country and target increased use of Kenyan raw materials, are approved. The Cabinet Secretary indicated that in order to de-risk the projects and attract more investments, the Government is looking into directly acquiring land - which can be made available to investors, and development of surrounding infrastructure.

Drawing from the Mexican experience, Mr. Huesca recommended the strengthening of the SEZ institutional framework, a flexible governance model and a comprehensive approach borrowing from international best practice. He also emphasized the importance of considering the social, indigenous and environmental impacts as part of the development process.

James Kamau, Managing Partner, IKM Advocates said “it was good to bring Government, developers, entrepreneurs and practitioners together to brainstorm on the challenges and identify opportunities in the nascent SEZ regime. SEZs offer a great deal of opportunity for investment but more importantly, they help to resolve social and economic issues such as poverty eradication by opening up market for local raw materials and increasing demand for human resources from the Kenyan people”.

The event was featured on the Business Daily and you can access the article here.