Finance central to Ruto-Kagame rapprochement

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Kenyan President William Ruto (left) and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame. © Daniel Irungu/EPA/MaxPPP – Laurent Gillieron/EPA/MaxPPP

A delegation of Kenyan financiers and government officials paid a discreet visit to the Rwandan capital earlier this month with a view to drawing inspiration from the two-year-old Kigali International Financial Centre. The idea is to revive Nairobi’s financial attractiveness on the regional scene.

Kenyan President William Ruto and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame discussed regional security when they met at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh on 6 November. While this is a central issue in their relationship, the two heads of state intend to move closer together in other areas too, chief among them the financial sector. A delegation of a dozen Kenyan representatives close to the banking sector travelled to Kigali from 2 to 8 November.

Boosting the business climate

The group was made up of representatives of the newly established Nairobi International Finance Centre (NIFC), which was inaugurated in July 2022 and is headed by businessman Vincent Rague, the chairman of Kenya Airways subsidiary Jambojet. Overseen by Treasury minister Njuguna Ndung’u, the NIFC aims to improve the business climate and facilitate foreign investment in Kenya. The aim of the trip was to pick up tips from the Kigali International Financial Centre (KIFC), chaired by Franco-Ivorian banker Tidjane Thiam (AI, 09/06/21). Since its creation in 2020, the KIFC has played a key role in Rwanda’s policy of rapprochement with several countries, including Qatar. This has inspired Ruto, who wants to capitalise on his good relations with the United Arab Emirates (AI, 28/09/22) to boost investments in Kenya.

The delegation, which met with Rwandan finance minister Uzziel Ndagijimana, also included representatives of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, as well as senior Treasury officials. Another delegation of Kenyan officials is expected to travel to Kigali for a follow-up visit in late November or early December.

Kenya has a strong financial presence in Kigali, where two of its leading banks, Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), have branches.

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