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07 november 2016

The secret to success is local involvement

NAIROBI – Doing business in Kenya is on the one hand complicated, but at the same time it can also be remarkably easy. Bert Rikken, Agricultural Counsellor of the 'Landbouwraad (agricultural council) Kenya', knows this best. In an interview he explains in what way the Landbouwraad can support entrepreneurs from the agricultural sector.

Joep Derksen

The network of agricultural councils supports Dutch enterprises in the agricultural sector with their international ambitions. The agricultural council assists companies in all links of the (agricultural) chain, such as basic material, agricultural products, technique, service, trade and marketing. Rikken himself has been working as agricultural counsellor at the embassy in Nairobi since 2013 and his range of operations comprises of the countries Kenya and Tanzania. Before this, he worked at the plant health service, amongst others. For the past few years, Rikken distinguished himself by his efforts on stimulating trade and investments in the agricultural sector between Kenya and the Netherlands.

He informs: 'Kenya has a pleasant climate and it is ideal to operate agriculture and horticulture all year long. This is due to the altitude on which important agricultural areas find themselves. Soils are volcanic in the Large Rift Valley and therefore particularly fertile.' Already in the previous century Dutch rose breeders started their activities in Kenya. And to great effect: nowadays already half of all roses on the Dutch auction come from East Africa.

The agricultural council cooperates with the Dutch Topsectoren Tuinbouw & Uitgangsmateriaal, Agrofood en Logistiek (top sectors horticulture and basic material, agricultural food and logistics). In the Kenyan ornamental horticulture sector the sustainable entrepreneurship, or: 'climate smart agriculture' is very much alive. And, in particular, climate change. According to Rikken, one of the success stories is without a doubt rose processor Olij. This company is located in Naivasha and it uses solar energy for generating electricity and warmth. The project of Green Farming was opened by minister Ploumen in October 2013. The major purpose of the project 'Solar powered Greenhouse' is to make the Olij company independent from the Kenyan electricity network. A warmth and power generation occurs by means of solar panels and solar collectors. Because of this, the green house can be kept warm at night and the enterprise keeps sufficient power for its company processes.

Rikken: 'They are particularly active in community support and show that they are not only a commercial enterprise, but are also concerned for the development of the local population. Precisely because they work with new technologies, such as geothermal heating, they have an edge on newcomers.' He points out the programme 'Green Farming': 'This is meant for Dutch horticultural suppliers, who are active in the export of goods, services, knowledge and consultancy at the Kenyan market. The purpose of the programme is to promote the export of Dutch products and to increase the market share of the Dutch supplying sector in the Kenyan market.'

Dutch entrepreneurs enjoy a privileged position anyway, because the Dutch government has concluded arrangements with the Kenya Flower Council, to prevent commercial enterprises from being opposed. Rikken advises entrepreneurs considering entering the Kenyan market: 'Look around very well. You can come in with a perfect business plan, but sometimes it is a little more challenging to have it executed. It works different here, from a cultural perspective; it is for instance important to speak to your suppliers on a regular basis. Power supply stops here from time to time; it is important to also consider this in the business plan. Roads are very bad here as well. This can cause some delay.' He laughs: 'Just like all the speed bumps. I think that Kenya holds the world record of speed bumps!'

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