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UN, Kenya to Launch Africa-Wide Investment Database

In this July 29, 2009 image made available by Kenya Presidential Press Services, Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki, left, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, third left, and Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, second left, and Zanzibar's President Dr. Abied Ka

The director of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization has met with Kenyan finance officials to discuss the launch an African-wide database designed to help governments promote investment in their countries.

The database contains information on companies’ activities in Africa. It also indicates which parts of the continent’s economies are growing, recent investments, and other trends that will enable investors to make informed decisions when setting up shop in Africa.

Aggregate statistics were culled from a survey conducted over a two-year period in which some 7,000 companies in 20 African countries responded. The information does not identify companies by name, although they can choose to link their company to the site.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization is targeting government investment authorities to obtain and use this database. Companies participating in the survey also have access to the information.

“Through the survey, the investment promotion agencies would, for example, be able to respond to an investor inquiry within 15-20 minutes with in-depth, customized information looking at company performances within the sector, looking at cost factors in the sector, etc. etc.,” said Mithat Kulur, the head of the Investment and Technology Unit at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

Kulur was in Nairobi this week meeting top finance ministry officials to explain the survey’s results and demonstrate use of the database.

The UN organization calls the East African country a “key investment hub,” and therefore wanted to launch the Africa-wide database there.

Kulur says that African companies investing in other African countries are among the most effective investors. He says that, because of the continent’s high potential and the being the world’s “next growth area,” investment authorities need to undergo major transformation.

“And that involves, one, looking more closely at domestic investors. Two, providing a much more business-oriented service to investors," he said. "A lot of investment promotion agencies are what we call “meet and greet” type of agency. They are there, friendly face at the airport, etc. That’s worked fine until now.”

The Kenya Investment Authority is one such group. Acting Managing Director Julius Korir tells VOA attracting business is crucial for the country to realize its goal of becoming a newly-industrialized country by 2030.

Korir says his agency has centralized and streamlined procedures to give investors what he calls the “red-carpet” treatment.

“We have what we call a “facilitation one-stop shop” where an investor brings in their projects, their applications - let’s say for work permits, for registration, for waivers and other things - and then our officers now do the walking for them,” said Korir.

Korir says his agency is looking for investments particularly in the areas of agriculture and agri-business, information technology-based industries, and business process outsourcing.