On 24th February, the three weeks trade mission for twenty final year Business Engineering students of the Solvay Business School started. Our journey began at Brussels Airport, where we departed to Nairobi, Kenya. Arriving late in the evening at Jomo Kenyatta International, the adventure officially starts.
Let me first introduce myself, I am Nils Janssens, a 23 years old final-year Business Engineering student from Belgium. I am part of the Inisol 2018 Trade Mission team which organised this year’s trade mission to Kenya.
Inisol, Initiative Group Solvay, is an organization of senior year master students in Business Engineering at the Solvay Business School of the University of Brussels (VUB). Since 1991, Inisol annually organizes a trade mission to an emerging economy. Besides being in the organising team, I had the honour of representing ArcelorMittal Projects during the trade mission which took place from February 24th to March 16th.
The real work commenced on Monday, 26th February. The contact list that had been drafted in the weeks before our departure could finally be put to use since contacting Kenyans is much easier when being on the ground. After making several phone calls during the first two days, the appointments kept flowing in. Contractors, consultants, civil engineering companies, quality surveyors, government agencies and even the ministry have been visited during my stay in Nairobi and Mombasa. All these meetings provide me with important insights that is happening in the Kenyan construction industry; the ways of doing business, upcoming projects and the interests in steel sheet piling and foundations solutions.
Kenya is currently experiencing tremendous changes and will continue to develop in the coming years. Especially the construction and infrastructure industry – which are also stressed in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ‘Big Four Agenda’ – are booming at the moment. To achieve these goals and visions, first-world construction techniques will be required. However, they are currently not widely available and common in Kenya.
When talking about the solutions ArcelorMittal Projects can offer, most of the people whom I have met were enthusiastic. Solutions like these would certainly have the potential for upcoming projects of high-rise buildings and infrastructure works in Nairobi, and for marine and port projects in Mombasa.
Presently, steel sheet piles usage in Kenya is rather low simply because no one is supplying them on a large-scale basis as well as the lack of capabilities. The best way to make it work is to be on the ground and showing the locals how it is done (e.g. by giving workshops, showing them a project where it has been applied etc.).
It would now be a good timing for entering the East African market. Major projects are getting shaped and initiated. Kenya can be seen as the gateway to the East African region. The Mombasa port serves several countries, it is not only the gateway to Kenya but also the gateway to East Africa and other African countries. Projects like Lamu port, Southern Bypass road and Kenya-Tanzania highway will only increase the number of containers coming in and going out of the country.
Neighbouring countries look up to Kenya as an example since it is the most developed East African country. As a consequence follows that if the solutions will take off in Kenya, other East African countries will follow because they will also be needing first-world solutions and follow Kenya’s example.
Overall, this trade mission was an unforgettable experience. It was an amazing adventure and a perfect learning opportunity to learn the way of doing business in a foreign country with a totally different culture. I would like to thank ArcelorMittal Projects for this opportunity of representing an amazing company in this promising country.
Information about Inisol Trade Mission
Inisol, Initiative Group Solvay, is an organization of senior year master students in Business Engineering at the Solvay Business School of the University of Brussels (VUB). Since 1991, Inisol annually organizes a trade mission to an emerging economy. During this three week mission, a group of about twenty to thirty graduating students individually perform a specific assignment for participating companies under direct academic supervision.
The trade mission team consists of a group of highly motivated business engineering students under the academic supervision of prof. dr. Michaël Dooms, who, when being a student, executed a trade mission himself and has supported the last ten editions. He will assist the students with the preparation and execution of the mission, including on-location support.
In the past years the trade mission went to Indonesia (2017), Malaysia (2016), China (2015), Kenya (2014), Colombia (2013), Turkey (2012), Vietnam (2011), Indonesia (2010), China (2009). This year Inisol chose to explore the Kenyan market again. Kenya is the most developed industrial economy in Eastern Africa. Kenyan government is open to investments and developed a decent social- and physical infrastructure. These developments make that Kenya is a very attractive location for companies wishing to enter the African market. According estimations for the medium term, an economical growth of 5.8% is expected for 2018 and will rise to 6.1% in 2019. These numbers are in line with the underlying growing potential of Kenya.