That Kenya has made progress in setting up an international financial centre in Nairobi after many years means that we are finally on the right track to attracting large international firms and boosting capital flows.
A financial centre bolsters Nairobi as East Africa’s strategic location with leading financial institutions, stock exchange, trading, and insurance companies.
However, the ambitious Kenyan hub, to be fashioned around financial centres in Europe and the Middle East, can only be achieved if corruption is addressed.
Kenya can easily attract direct international investors in droves, and raise revenue beyond the $2 billion (Sh235.74 billion) target by 2030, but it must seal corruption loopholes.
Graft raises operational costs, creating uncertainty and thereby deterring investment.
Take the case of Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, who faulted Kenya’s leadership for “their greed and persistent failure to place matters of national interest first when it comes to development.”
He put on hold his plans to build a mega cement factory in Kenya after being demoralised by corrupt top decision-makers.
With the rotten culture of asking for kickbacks to speed up access to work permits and other regulatory licences, many investors will shy away.
Policymakers might have the best plans, but they require proper investment and finance laws too if the Nairobi International Financial Centre is to be successful.
Let Kenya benchmark with the best such as London, Dubai, and Hong Kong financial centers which have been thriving because of good legal systems, low and simple tax regimes, free flow of capital, a full range of financial products, and a large pool of financial talent.
The growth and opening up of Nairobi as a financial centre offer unmissable opportunities such as creating a bigger pool of capital from around the world available for domestic investors and growing the local financial and capital markets.
Kenya is already a commercial hub, with global companies having their regional headquarters here.
So, let the centre designers and authorities benchmark with the best in the world.