Best Business Advice From Kenya

Best Business Advice From Kenya

I am back from my “business exploration trip” to Kenya and Rwanda and it was a very fulfilling experience on so many levels! It felt like coming home.

Below is finally the first of many blog posts in that regard. I started this one in Kigali and never finalized it – the trip simply kept me so busy from early mornings into the late evenings. I apologize for a sleepy blog during the last two weeks and thank you for your patience. I hope it will pay off.

I just counted the business cards I received – 36. Plus the many more people I spoke to with whom we did not exchange cards. So taking the national holiday in Kenya into account when I arrived, I met well over forty experts and business people in Kenya and Rwanda in those thirteen days. It was some sort of a crazy marathon, but I hope that it now allows me to feed you back details you may otherwise not receive so easily when visiting other Africa Business sites online.


Now let’s get started!…..

I am sitting in a beautiful outdoor restaurant called Shokola in the outskirts of Kigali Rwanda. I arrived yesterday from Nairobi where I spent a week running from one meeting to the other absorbing everything around doing business and investment in Kenya. In fact, I have been so busy that I have not written a single blog post in over a week – the days in Nairobi were hectic but wonderfully fruitful. Sitting now in Kigali overlooking the green hills and parts of the city gives you a bit of a spa experience – I really needed that. It’s a world away from busy, buzzy Nairobi, East Africa’s business hub. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed being in Nairobi, and if you are following our Africa Business Jumpstart page on Facebook (I hope you do!), you have been a witness to that. I was amazed by the open and dynamic attitude of many Kenyans, the extent to which they welcomed and assisted me, their drive, their hospitality and the excellent service they provide most of the time.

I collected a lot of information and I will need to write several blog posts to share everything I saw, learned and heard. So now let me start sharing some of the insights I gained in Nairobi. Here is a list of random, colorful Kenyan business insights which I received from the people doing business in Kenya already.

1. Leather more profitable than bars & restaurants, says entrepreneur

I had the pleasure to meet with Mr Vasu Abotula who I was introduced to by the Kenyan Leather Development Corporation. I met Mr Abotula for a meeting in one of his bars where I ordered fresh mango juice. He is a Kenyan citizen and a rather high-profile accountant in Nairobi. About four years ago he ventured out to start his own business with a partner. He invested in both the leather industry producing shoes and he manages a couple of upper-class bars. Today, according to Abotula , he owns 4 shoe shops and 8 bars. He started the leather ventures from scratch, while he simply upgraded bars he bought from someone else.

“Which one is more profitable for you?” I asked.

“The leather without a doubt.”

His shoe company, K Shoes, now features for the first time on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. Mr Abotula asked me to spread the word, so people will buy shares in his company. The first round for public offering will only be open for a few more days – so hurry and get in touch if you are interested or join the next round in the coming year. I can get you the full details in a report upon request. Mr Abotula plans to open 25 shoe shops in Kenya in the next 10 years.

TIP: Kshoes is importing all its accessories such as shoe soles from East Asia. Mr Abotula said leather and shoe accessories would also be a very profitable business for anyone who would start manufacturing those in Kenya. This was confirmed to me by the CEO of the Kenya Leather Development Council.

Of course, the bar & restaurant business can be equally profitable, but it demonstrates that some of us may have overlooked the potential of the leather industry if you are looking for a profitable business. If you are interested, please get in touch with the Kenya Leather Development Council, they can assist you.

2. Building enterprise solutions is the way to go with ICT


I met with the great people at Nairobi’s ihub which is the leading tech hub in the region. We spoke about Kenya’s tech sector and some of the more profitable strategies. Josiah Mugambi, iHub’s Executive Director, told me that a lot of people were into building apps or mobile money services. “There was a real hype around that. Having your own app was kind of cool. “ Josiah said. While many of them have been very successful the biggest gap in the market now is the B2B (business to business) service sector. “There is an immense gap for digital business solutions in Kenya. Our tech community is not really used in addressing that but we have been pushing them more towards that, because there is a lot to be done in this regard.” So if you want to enter the ICT sector in Kenya or the wider region, developing digital enterprise solutions is viewed as a top strategy by the experts.

3. You have land to invest in? Go for real estate or high-quality agricultural produce

The real estate sector in Kenya is at this time still one of the top investment options according to business experts on the ground who I spoke to. Houses for the upper class sell almost immediately, highly attractive office space was also in great demand, I was told, or estates for lower middle class families – these three categories are your best bet.

People from Growth Africa told me that quality of agricultural produce is often low and that there was a real gap in this regard. They took tomatoes as an example. Although tomato harvest has a surplus in some years, there was a need for producers who could deliver reliably throughout the year and produce tomatoes that are of same size and shape. This consistency was rare but according to them it was precisely what some buyers on the upper market in Nairobi were looking for.

It confirmed to me what Tunde Ogunrinde from QSR Consult in Nigeria had told me when we met at an expo in London earlier this year. He is producing tomatoes under green house conditions, and he cannot meet the demand for his high-quality produce, although tomatoes are sadly regularly rotting away in the fields of other farmers.

Agricultural greenhouse production – even at small scale as we have learned, can allow you to grow rapidly, because the demand for such produce is so high.

4. Digital marketing strategies – you will be somewhat of a pioneer!


I have never seen paper billboards as big as those I saw in the streets of Nairobi. I mean they are huge, and in some areas they seem bigger than the houses. If there was a contest for ‘biggest billboard display worldwide’ I am sure Nairobi would be one of the top contenders. I smiled when I recognized some of the young start-ups that I had been reading about in the media on those billboards.

I asked representatives of larger enterprises how they were marketing their products and services. Almost all mentioned billboards and the radio, one mentioned specialist magazines. And this in a digital era and in a tech hub like Nairobi, I was seriously surprised. I then asked KenInvest to link me up to a couple of marketers – we met a few days later. One very competent lady even had the motorcar company Ford among her clients and still none of them were using digital marketing! And that although Africa has the highest growth rate of mobile phone users worldwide and according to various media sources is expected to go through an ‘Internet revolution’ soon.

By the way, the situation in Rwanda was very much the same – just the bill boards were a bit more modest.

Now, you have two very smart choices: Either to start a digital marketing company as a business with very little competition or to integrate professional digital marketing into your own sales strategy (regardless of your industry) – both will make you very competitive ! Not only is it usually a much cheaper way of advertising, but I am also convinced that more people will notice.

5. Nairobi ? No, think 46 more Kenya counties for success!

Africa Business Kenya Western

Of course Nairobi is a great business hub with huge potential, but I have received insights regarding investments in Kenya’s largely overlooked counties such as those in the Western Region bordering Uganda or in the Maasailand to name a few. I met with people with connection to the governors of those counties and was told that the counties have recently become more decentralized and are given their own budgets for development. Many of the counties in the periphery faced problems in reaching out to investors and as a result some of the money – I was told – had to be given back to the central government. There was very fertile land available for agricultural development in the Western Region and a lot of space for real estate development in the East, similar situations may be found in many more locations. Overall, the counties were looking for interested business people and investors across sectors such as telecommunication, infrastructure, agribusiness, and housing. Prices and competition are much lower in counties far away from Nairobi – so it is a strategy you should certainly consider. There is a great will in many of those administrative areas and you would be welcomed with open arms I was told. I think, it’s worth considering !

Hope you found my first post with random Kenya business insights hopeful. Some more to follow!

And please feel free to share your feedback regarding my post or ask questions, I am happy to provide you with more details and I am sure others in our Africa Business JumpStart Community are also ready to assist. Let’s keep marching!

JumpStart Poster (red)

And still. Let’s be defined what dosage in this case approaches most of all. There can be it cialis 20mg or something another. To me I think it isn’t necessary to choose for you necessary. Think. Perhaps suits you cialis 20 mg It is much better.

Dr. Harnet
Dr. Harnet Bokrezion is the Founder of and co-author of the book '101 Ways to Make Money in Africa'. She coaches individuals and consults existing companies assisting them to make smart and strategic business decisions in Africa’s new emerging markets faster and more confidently. Dr. Harnet also regularly writes for the renowned DHL powered publication Get in touch to inquire how she can be of assistance to your own Africa business endeavors:

User Comments ( 14 )

  • Wonderful Harnet! I didnt know that Kenya was so fertile in those areas… I have five projects being developed to global scale in those exact areas. Leather is in high end fashion accessories and design, ICT enterprise is my profession expertise for 30 years, tradional and digital marketing is also an expertise I perform as business practice, cafe/grille/bar/restaurant is where I have experience with managinging from helping parents run one when younger, and lastly i have actually grown produce on an acre of land for a number of years with parents in the states and later when i owned a home!

    How soon can I Skype with you about a scalable plan! You have tevealed a gold mine of opportunity!

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Robert, yes I have noticed you are a serial entrepreneur in the making. I think Kenya has the ideal environment for you as it is a very open and dynamic market – and relatively fast moving in comparison with other markets. Ethiopia is a great market as well with huge potential, but one certainly needs much more patience to operate in there as compared to Kenya, as the market is still largely a closed economy. OR; Nairobi and Kigali could be strategically a good basis for doing business with Ethiopia.

  • My apologies about the mispellings….. I was so excited about your post I was commenting on my mobile device instead of desktop… As a writer, I am better at typing on keyboard than typing on touch screen….. I’ve got to move to East Africa!

    • Brian Karina

      Am humbled by the fact that you are willing to come and invest in our country Robert L Dunbar. Any assistance that you will want when you are here, feel free to let me know sir. I just want to volunteer and assist you where I can in terms of being your contact person here in Kenya. Thanks and God bless you sir.

  • Thank you for your painstaking efforts to help us African to know the abundant opportunities to wealth in our continent, The work you are doing is great and I have benefited a lot from it. It give us African the opportunity to start our business from the scratch , and to help us to live above poverty.
    I have benefited a lot from it. You are angel send to deliver us from abject poverty .

    • Dr. Harnet

      Dear Charles, I feel humbled by your words, thank you and it makes me very happy to hear you find some of the information and strategies on my blog helpful to move you forward in your endeavors. I wish you the best with it and welcome to the Africa Business JumpStart Family, I hope we can continue our journeys together on this platform.

  • Hakeem Akindipe

    You are welcome back. I’ve always known that your reports will be quite revealing having keenly followed your movements on facebook in the last two weeks. This is impressive and educative. It gladdens the heart the types of virgin opportunities that are available in Africa. Keep it coming, we are taking notes. Who knows, one can strike a collaboration one day. Well done.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Thanks, Hakeem, this is very kind of you and your online FB support meant a lot during my trip, which was some kind of first trial for me.
      Indeed the opportunities are wonderful and I hope I can continue to share more insights that others may find useful….and vice versa. Glad you are part of our Africa Business JumpStart Family now, let’s grow this together to empower more people and yes, building mutual business connections along the way should be part of this exercise! Welcome on board!

  • Mohamud

    This is my first time visiting this web. I recently came back from Nairobi and was exploring business opportunities. i can simply say you are well informed and well equipped than many so called African business consultants. the much you covered here and the many more to come that we cant wait to read– your trip was successful. Please share with the experience you received within the course of your exploration. Hope you had a test of the Kenyan food ( Nyama Choma) Thanks again.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Mohamud, welcome at our Africa Business Jumpstart site and than you for your motivating words. I will continue to share all the insights I receive!
      I hope you had a successful time in Kenya too and that continue to engage with us.
      I did not try the Nyama Choma, as I am vegetarian, but I had a lot of other local food, especially the traditional fish dishes. Delicious!

  • What you say is very true and the sense of comparison you offer so frankly is refreshing…. The view of a brother from outside looking in.
    Investors from Europe and Asia see all these things, but, having no kinship interest in us, won’t tell it the way you do, lest we wake up…
    Twende kazi!! … let’s get to work.

  • Brian Karina

    Wow, I have to admit that this is quite a masterpiece. This being my first time on the site. Am really inspired and moved by how much one can do within one week! Looking forward to reading more of your piece work in the future. Now I believe I have also joined the family. Any assistance or volunteerism that you may want from my side, feel free to let me know. Being a young Kenyan, passionate about Entrepreneurship, how can I overlook the such articles and the opportunities you offer to investors?

    You can find me on face book as: Brian Karina
    Twitter: @karina_brian1
    You can also follow Karatina University ENTREPRENEURs Student Association-kuesa club on face book where am the chairman. Thanks once again and God bless you.

  • Sebestian

    Am in Uganda.Next time visit us and see the opportunities Uganda aka “The Pearl of Africa offers.

    • Dr. Harnet

      Hi Sebestian – thanks so much and most definitely, Uganda is on my list…soon.