After assuming the leadership mantle of the Kenya’s business lobby on June 8, 2019, the immediate former Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) president Richard Ngatia’s push for high market integration with global partners to facilitate access of Kenya’s business community to the international market and transfer of technology through e-commerce alongside solidifying local business environment bore the hallmark of his remarkable tenure at KNCCI.
After his exit in June 2023, Ngatia has now been elevated to be president of the regional chamber, the East African Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture (EACCIA) marking his tremendous rise in the private sector leadership globally.
EACCIA serves as the apex chamber for all the countries that comprise the East African Community (EAC) member states notably Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA), Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UNCCI) and Zanzibar National Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (ZNCCIA).
As the EACCIA president, Ngatia’s main objective is to lobby for the creation of a conducive environment for cross-border trade and investment within the seven EAC member states notably the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania.
He succeeds his predecessor Toufiq S. Turky who has since been promoted to the position of the EACCIA Patron.
Ngatia is also a member of the World Chamber Federation Member Council, further affirming his stature in the global business community.
He is the first Kenyan to sit on the council of the powerful lobby for trade chambers with his appointment seen as a major boost to local businesses.
During his tenure at the helm of KNCCI, Ngatia initiated key reforms at the now 58 years old business lobby group and elevated its stature to global standards.
Ranging from raising the chamber direct membership, laying policy framework for local and foreign investors to facilitate ease of doing business in the country, during Ngatia’s tenure, the chamber projected focus to gain access entry into the international markets through international trade cooperation with business lobby groups and foreign embassies.
During his tenure at the helm of KNCCI, Ngatia oversaw signing of tens of Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) with local foreign trade missions, embassies, high commissions and international trade forums to boost Kenya’s private access to the international market and improve trade balance between Kenya and other countries.
For example, in March 2022, KNCCI through Ngatia negotiated trade opportunities with the Federations Council of Saudi Chambers (FCSC) where Saudi Arabia agreed to employ at least 100,000 Kenyans, majority of them youths.
The MoU was executed by Ngatia and Federations Council of Saudi Chambers (FCSC) Secretary General Hussain Alabdulkader during the Saudi Arabia – Kenya Business Forum at the Council of Saudi Chambers.
The MoU provides mechanism to facilitate trade information, services and opportunities to improve the balance of trade between Kenya and Saudi Arabia.
He also negotiated for KNCCI’s satellite offices in the United Arabs Emirates in both Dubai and Sharjah.
Other notable MoUs signed were between KNCCI and the French Chamber of Commerce in Kenya thus offering French investors access to market to COMESA’s 19 member states through Kenya and other different parts of the continent including Egypt, Ethiopia, and Libya.
He was also elected as the inaugural substantive chairperson of the Great Lakes Region Private Sector Forum during the regional GLR 2019 General Assembly involving all the twelve member states held in Nairobi in 2019.
The same year, during the Kenya-Japan business forum held as part of the just concluded Tokyo International Conference African Development (Ticad VII) in Yokohama, Uganda president Yoweri Museveni congratulated the Kenya chamber for taking lead in promoting business linkages beyond the African continent
Further, in 2019, Ngatia led Kenya’s business delegation to Sochi in Russia during the Russia-Africa Summit where oversaw signing of multiple trade deals between Kenya’s private sector and Russia and called called for deepened strategic industrial diversification, investment programmes and enhanced productivity through public private sector initiatives- (PPP) programmes by taking advantage of Kenya’s development of industrial parks and Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
Additionally, during his tenure at KNCCI, Ngatia was able to push for external market, agitate for provision of incentives by the national government on agricultural inputs to save country’s main foreign exchange earner from external competition and implementation of signed MoUs.
Under Ngatia’s leadership, locally, KNCCI signed many MoU’s notably with the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) on behalf of the financial institutions to strengthen the capacities of SMEs at their initial stages of development.
Under the arrangement, traders, majorly the SMEs are now able to access credit without collateral through ‘Know Your Customer’ framework.
The chamber has also partnered with the Ministry of Gender and Youth Affairs to whip special groups to take part in the 30 per cent government tenders to enable them unlock access of over Sh300billion meant for youths, women and people with disability under the Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (Agpo) programme.
On the other hand, KNCCI forged a close working relationship with the two levels of government, the national and county governments to ease the cost of doing business by reducing the number of licences required before setting up.
Under the arrangement, Ngatia was named Special Business Advisor to the Council of Governors (CoG) on matters Trade and Investment, to ensure tax harmonization within the counties creating an enabling environment for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
And on capacity building the chamber’s 47 county chapters and the head office, under Ngatia’s leadership, he entrenched partnership with county governments since the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the council of governors in 2015 and later with the Kenya Investment Authority in 2016 to facilitate trade and investment in counties.
In his new mandate as the EACCIA president, Ngatia is keen to rally the business community with the EAC region to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that cover a market of 1.2 billion people through inter and intra-state trade in order to have a competitive edge both regionally and internationally.