Business opportunities for Finnish companies growing in East Africa

East Africa, which is modernising, developing rapidly and becoming richer presents versatile business opportunities for Finnish companies. Such companies have tremendous expertise and potential that would enable them to gain a foothold in these rapidly emerging markets.

The energy sector is teeming with opportunities, particularly in renewable energy and wind, solar and bioenergy. Other promising sectors include education, water and waste treatment, and information technology solutions. The growing health and wellness trend is also visibly on the rise in East Africa.

Versatility poses challenges in East Africa

The countries of East Africa differ in many ways – for example, in terms of the economy, population, culture, business environments and politics. Eastern Africa is versatile and multilingual. Personal connections and local know-how are particularly important when conducting business.

Opportunities are rapidly emerging in East Africa, particularly in Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. For example, in Kenya, which is home to some 45 million people, annual economic growth is around 6%; its medium-term economic growth is thought to be unrivalled in Africa. Its economy is powered by increasing consumption and a growing service sector. The Kenyan operational environment continues to pose challenges – such as corruption – but local partners and the country's open operational culture are opening up versatile business opportunities.

Ethiopia is currently implementing major public investments, in which Finnish companies could participate. A total of 19% of Ethiopia's gross national product is spent on public investment.

Attracting the interest of international investors and companies

The prospering middle classes and natural resources discovered in recent years have also attracted new foreign investors to East Africa. The good location of the above-mentioned countries, the workforce's fairly high level of education in the African context, smooth telecommunications and well-functioning banking services have sparked interest among many international companies in these growth opportunities. Finnish companies should boldly go and grab a share of this potential and opportunities.

Partner with BEAM

The aim of BEAM, the joint programme of Tekes and the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, is to assist Finnish enterprises and other actors in addressing global development challenges, by converting such challenges into successful and sustainable business. The programme supports Finnish companies, research organisations, universities, universities of applied sciences, NGOs and others in developing, piloting and demonstrating innovations that improve well-being in developing countries and open up international business opportunities for Finnish companies. BEAM is a five-year programme with a budget of around EUR 50 million. Roughly half of this comes from Tekes and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, while the other half is paid by the project participants themselves.

According to Minh Lam, Tekes's Programme Manager for BEAM, Africa is one of the programme's geographic focus areas.

"We believe that these countries have plenty of business potential, and BEAM is seeking to provide solid support for new openings. Since the African business environment and time lags may be more challenging than those of the Western markets, programmes such as BEAM and other support instruments are important in order to divide the risks and create the necessary preconditions," Lam adds.

On 28 September 2016, the BEAM programme held an information event on business opportunities in East Africa for Finnish businesses. Some 60 people attended.

Further information

Minh Lam
tel. +358 2950 55743
minh.lam (at)

Sanna Nuutila
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