(Updates with comment about investors in fifth paragraph.)
Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration said he’s telling companies from the world’s biggest economy including Marriott International Inc. to invest in the East African country because of its growth potential.
Gration, appointed in April, said he has met with officials from Dow Chemical Co. and Marriott, the largest publicly trade U.S. hotel chain, to discuss their intention to invest in Kenya. General Electric Co., the world’s biggest provider of power- generation equipment and services, and International Business Machines Corp., the world’s largest computer-services provider, want to expand their Kenyan presence, Gration said.
“I told the same thing to all of them,” he told American business leaders today in Nairobi, the capital. “I told them that now is a great time to invest in Kenya. Smart companies should be positioning themselves for a bright future by investing into Kenya right now.”
Investor confidence has been dented because of ethnic clashes following Kenya’s presidential election in December 2007, Gration said. The fighting killed an estimated 1,500 people over two months in the East African nation before President Mwai Kibaki signed a power-sharing accord with then- opposition leader Raila Odinga, who was named prime minister.
“There are a lot of companies holding back because they are fearful that we’ll have a repeat of 2007,” Gration said. “But I believe the future is brighter, and while maybe some caution is prudent, now is the time” to invest.
Reasons for Optimism
The ongoing implementation of a constitution enacted a year ago, coastal Kenya’s strategic position as a hub for regional trade and the country’s “abundance” of well-educated people are reasons for investor optimism, he said.
Gration, who learned to speak the local Swahili language as a child living in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo with his missionary parents, was previously the U.S. special envoy to Sudan. He returned to Kenya in the 1980s as an instructor pilot with the Kenyan air force.
He was a foreign-policy and national-security adviser in the election campaign for President Barack Obama, whose late father hailed from western Kenya, and worked as a special assistant in Obama’s administration.
--Editors: Jennifer M. Freedman, Digby Lidstone
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