Kenya’s largest retail chain goes continental

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Kenya’s largest retail chain, Nakumatt Supermarket, said Monday it had opened a new branch in Rwanda, in a move that boosts bilateral trade relations between the two countries.

The supermarket chain, headquartered in Nairobi, announced plans to cover the African market in the coming years. It officially opened its first US$ 3 million, 24-hour supermarket outlet in Kigali.

A statement from the supermarket chain issued here said the opening of the Rwanda subsidiary formally crystallized Nakumatt Holdings East Africa regional expansion plan.

Rwanda’s Minister for Trade and Industry Monique Nsanzabaganwa said Nakumatt’s entry had been made possible by the government’s ongoing private sector investment policy reforms.

“The government of Rwanda has already achieved a range of investment reforms necessary for rapid growth of business and many more are still under review,” Nsanzabaganwa said.

The Rwandan government, she said, was now taking the lead in the facilitation of private sector development by ensuring a conducive business climate.

Such a climate, she further stressed, was geared at ensuring the rapid growth of business-related investments in Rwanda.

The move is seen in the region as a step in the right direction because Rwanda is one of the five members of the regional trading block heading towards a political federation – East African Community (EAC). Other members of the regional body are – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi.

“The entry of Nakumatt to this market is a clear indication of the government’s commitment to foster private sector development and is 100 per cent in line with the Kigali City 24 hour policy.”

Kenya’s Ambassador to Rwanda Alex Keter said the regional governments had moved to initiate national and regional measures to address the relatively high cost of doing business in the region.

Situated in the heart of Kigali city at the ultra modern Union Trade Centre, the new Nakumatt City Centre outlet, covering a shopping floor space of more than 25,000 square feet, is the first operational Nakumatt outlet outside Kenya with plans to open similar stores in Uganda and Tanzania now at an advanced stage.

Nakumatt Holdings Operations Director Thiagarajan Ramamurthy described the opening of the new store in Rwanda as a milestone for Nakumatt Holdings.

Ramamurthy said the Nakumatt would be investing more than US$ 20 million in the East Africa expansion plan which would see the chain opening three branches in Uganda, two in Rwanda, four in Tanzania and raising its Kenyan network to 30 in the next two years.

He pledged to maintain the firm’s renowned world class standards in the east Africa expansion drive. “Through this supermarket, we shall also be focusing our energies on the transfe r of global retail best practices to the Rwandan retail marketplace,” Ramamurthy said. “Such international best practices will be undertaken alongside a very strategic effort to foster the growth of local manufacturers and producers.”

With the opening of the new Nakumatt City Centre branch in Kigali city, Nakumatt Holdings has managed to attain an East Africa presence dream on schedule while raising its total branch tally to 20.

The Supermarket chain’s entry to Rwanda is a culmination of an investor partnership programme spearheaded by the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (RIEPA).

RIEPA Director General Francis Gatare described Nakumatt’s entry into Rwanda as a very rich harvest.

The RIEPA boss expressed optimism that Nakumatt ‘s entry into the Rwanda market would facilitate further development in the country’s retail sector as envisioned in the Rwanda Vision 2020 development blueprint.

“To us, the launch of Nakumatt in Rwanda is like a very rich harvest for the good farmer. Today’s launch follows a period of great partnership between RIEPA and Nakumatt throughout the sequence of their investment interest and execution,” Gatare said. “We applaud them for believing in and experiencing Rwanda’s vision and determination to provide the best environment for business operators.”

With a branch network of 19 branches in Kenya’s major towns of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Meru and Kisii, Nakumatt is also the first company in sub-Sahara Africa to introduce 24 hour services at selected branches.

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