The Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) with the support of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has launched a one-stop-shop web portal to boost communication, transparency and service provision for current and potential investors in Kenya’s special economic zones.
The portal officially presented as the SEZ Authority, the organization, through the help of the web portal www.sezauthority.go.ke, will be able to adapt its investor outreach, retention, and after-care strategies to an interactive online platform, supporting investment, growth, and job creation in the country.
Currently, Kenya has ten SEZs and through them, the country aims to boost competitiveness by ensuring regulatory and administrative predictability, quality industrial infrastructure, and market access.
The Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development Betty Maina said the SEZ programme was designed to improve Kenya’s competitiveness as an investment destination through infrastructure provision, simplification and facilitation of the investment process for both local and global investors and value chain integration and clustering.
Speaking at her NSSF office during the virtual launch of the SEZ Authority‘s web portal, the CS said the portal also aimed at expanding market access for the country’s goods and services both locally and internationally.
“This programme’s objective is to enhance technology development and innovation and promote rural and regional industrialization by exploiting comparative advantage of local resources,” said Maina.
She said the ministry’s goal is to develop the country into a new industrial hub in Africa by accelerating the development of industries that would drive the country’s economic growth.
Maina reaffirmed the government’s commitment to providing the sector with the support it required to enable it increase its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product to 15 per cent by the year 2022.
She assured all stakeholders that her ministry would work hand in hand with SEZ Authority to boost the private sector contribution to GDP and scale-up investment generation, especially in manufacturing.
“We are currently focusing on improving our global competitiveness for industry and services, particularly in enhancing efficiency and bringing services closer to the customer through web automation,” added the CS.
The CS at the same time noted that the web automation was also expected to reduce operational costs associated with establishment and licencing, increase productivity and to facilitate the special economic zones end -users during registration and approvals.
“This portal is very important as it will provide real-time information on our investment roadmap, detailing available investments schemes, administrative and tax incentives, infrastructural facilities and information on work permits and visas,” said Maina.
“Special Economic Zones are a key pillar for Kenya’s industrialization agenda, value addition, and a platform to leverage and catalyse private sector investment,” she said.
It is evident that inadequate quality industrial infrastructure, complex and costly regulatory requirements, institutional coordination challenges, and sectoral constraints limiting value addition are the persistent challenges to Kenya’s private sector competitiveness.
Similarly, the Chief Administrative Secretary David Osiany also lauded the launch as a milestone in the manufacturing sector which was part of the government big four agenda.
“The web portal allows for credibility, improved customer interaction, lower costs for disseminating information, simplify integration issue, enhance awareness, and it is an effective marketing channel,” he said.
Osiany added that data is extremely significant in business competition and employing resources carefully and that the internet has become the market place of the global village.
The Acting SEZ Authority CEO Dr Meshack Kimeu said that the portal is a repository that allows visitors to learn and interact in real-time with the Authority on cross-cutting issues.
“It also avails information regarding opportunities and incentives including investor road maps and facilities, available investment schemes and sectors, administrative and tax incentives,” he added.
Other than making online applications through the portal, investors could also apply to lease land within the public SEZ parks once available for rent, sign up for news updates, subscribe to the SEZ Authority bulletin, and access the resource centre.
The IFC, through the Country Manager for Kenya Ms. Amena Arif, pledged its continued support for the country to establish SEZs to facilitate investors’ access to essential infrastructure and simplified mechanisms for business registration and operation.
“There is need to strengthen investment in industrial infrastructures, such as special economic zones, which is key to growing Kenya’s economy,” she added.
SEZs are demarcated areas that provide private firms with quality, cost-effective, reliable infrastructure, efficient customs services, regulatory predictability, and even fiscal incentives.
The SEZ Authority will have regular updates on their websites of statistics and analysis reports on Kenya’s socio-economic development and an investor’s roadmap with data on what is needed to start a business in the country.
There will be an additional description of the current investment projects and the Kenya government’s measures and incentives to support operating industries and new projects as soon as they are made available to the public.
By Michael Omondi and Bernadette Khaduli