Getting land remains a big challenge for industrial investors in Kenya. This is what 200 Chinese who came into Kenya scouting for business opportunities were told. Only a few days earlier, the Governor of Machakos County Dr. Alfred Mutua had complained about the complicated nature of land acquisition by investors.

According to the Governor, he had mobilized over a billion shillings worth of investments with investors drawn from many parts of the world. Four years later, none of this money has been invested in Machakos County.

“The investors have waited, got tired and left for other countries – Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi …” says a disappointed Dr Mutua.

Dr. Kirubi

And Kenya’s leading industrialist Dr. Chris Kirubi says, if the issue of land is not solved soon, it will continue to remain a barrier to attracting investors to Kenya.

“Even as Chinese and other foreign investors seek to come to Kenya, there is a need for the government to come up with a policy that will provide land for industrialists.

“A Chinese company is not interested in owning land in Kenya but has money to set up a big business. Sometimes looking for this land is even tiresome,” says Dr. Kirubi.

The Chinese investors came from a province called Guangdong under a program of cooperation dubbed China Guangdong-Kenya Economic and Trade Cooperation.”

Land Tenure System

Land in Kenya is owned by four different kinds of entities – the government, county governments, individuals and groups. For the purposes of land ownership a citizen is any Kenyan individual who has been granted citizenship and includes the natural citizens as well.

It also means any company that is wholly owned by Kenyan citizens or any trust whose beneficiaries are Kenyan citizens.

Leasehold term under which foreigners can own land, gives the owner a limited term which can be extended upon expiry. The Constitution limits the tenure for non-citizens to not more than 99 years.

Kenya’s Attraction

Despite this Kenya remains a strong investment destination in region mainly because of its enabling infrastructure and its strategic location as it is a gateway to East Africa.  It is regarded as the economic hub of eastern Africa due to its proximity to the Indian Ocean.

Investors from countries such as China stand to benefit from Kenya’s access of the up to 130 million people of the East African region and the over 410 million people from the COMESA region.