NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 24 - Dow Chemical says it is developing a strategy that will guide the operations of its Kenyan subsidiary as it moves to enhance its footprint in Africa.
The company's General Manager for Middle East and Africa Dr Ilham Kadri said on Thursday that they are taking their time to learn about the needs of the country and what technological solutions they should deploy here.
"We are listening and evaluating the value chain and understanding how we can build and leverage on the strengths of the Dow Chemical Company around the globe. But we also believe that one-size doesn't fit all and that's why we will listen first to Kenyan needs before bringing the right technology," Dr Kadri said.
The Kenyan office was opened in June last year as a way of developing the company's presence in East Africa. The manufacturer's hub in the continent has been South Africa but it also has a presence in Egypt from where it has been serving the greater East African market, prior to the opening of the Nairobi unit.
Touted as the next frontier for economic growth, Africa is becoming an attractive destination for many investors. Its 1.1 billion population made up of mostly young people serves to further enhance its investment potential with the consumer spending expected to reach Sh168 trillion ($2trillion) in 2020.
"Africa is the last emerging market that is available to us. The region hosts the youngest mass population in the world and all these people need houses; they need coatings, they need better access to quality health care. So there is a huge opportunity for companies like our in Africa," the GM said.
The continued effort by African governments to diversify beyond minerals into technology and service-based sectors such as ICT is another factor that is working to these multinationals' favour.
The fact that Kenya has excelled particularly in the ICT and banking sectors, coupled with its strategic location as the gateway to the region as well as its membership in the East African Community made the country a natural choice for Dow Chemical's expansion plans.
Dr Kadri forecasted that with the setting up of the Kenyan office, they would be able to double their East African sales from the current $35 million in the next five years.
Country Manager Ahmed Dualeh explained that they plan to forge new partnerships in fields such as home and personal care, paint and coating and building and construction.
Dow Chemical is also involved in developing technologies for water purification, which is also an area Mr Dualeh said they intend to play a major role in, with participation from the various stakeholders.
The company has very advanced ultrafiltration technologies that enable it to process 36 million gallons of clean water per minute globally. Their innovation and expertise in waste water treatment are expected to come in handy in Kenya which, like many other countries in the world has been hit by water scarcity for decades.