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A Conversation About Kenya's Economy

WASHINGTON, January 12, 2012 -- What does 2012 hold for Kenya and its people? What can Kenyans expect from the surging information and communications technology field? Will the country always have to rely on foreign aid? How will it attract more foreign investors?

These are just a few of the questions asked during the first-ever World Bank Africa livestream event specifically on the state of the Kenyan economy, held January 10, 2012. Host Wolfgang Fengler, lead economist for Kenya, fielded questions from people around the world through World Bank Africa social media sites, as well as the livestream chatroom.

"We have recently launched the new, latest Kenya Economic Update and we know we have quite a big online community following us," Fengler said. "This is the first experience for us to interact with that community."

The newly-released economic update calls 2012 a "defining year" for Kenya, despite facing challenges such as including national elections, establishing of a new system of devolved government and the possibility of a deteriorating global economy.

Still, Fengler says, the country has the potential to prosper, with the ICT sector having grown twenty percent per year over the last ten years. Fengler explained that ICT is improving the performance of various sectors in Kenya, such as transportation, infrastructure and agriculture.

Beyond ICT, Fengler described business opportunities in other sectors, citing Kenya as one of the leading producers of tea.

"Africa is on a growth path, but Kenya, particularly, has two advantages," he said. "Great people and great location."

Fengler was joined by Kenyan leaders, experts and representatives from various economic sectors in both Washington, D.C. and Nairobi for the hour-long conversation, including Jessica Colaco of iHub Nairobi, Jackson M'Vanguya of Voice of America, Emmanuel Were of New Nation Media, Maggie Kemunto of IBM, Mark Kaigwa of African Innovation and Jane Kiringa of the World Bank, among others.