In San Francisco, Kenya's president woos American tech companies despite increasing taxes at home
Kenyan President William Ruto delivers keynote remarks during a U.S.- Kenya Business Roadshow hosted by Prosper Africa, a U.S. Trade and Investment Initiative, in San Francisco, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
| September 17, 2023 12:00 AM
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya's president is wooing American tech companies, promising a business-friendly environment — even though he has raised taxes on businesses at home.
President William Ruto made the appeal in an address to leading U.S. technology companies and investors on Friday in San Francisco, highlighting investment opportunities in his country and lauding his government's "strategic priorities."
"For the sake of stability, we have a tax code that is simple to enforce, consistent, fair and predictable" — one that won't change in the next three years, he said.
"We have eliminated value-added tax on exported services and the tax on stock-based compensation for employees of startups, as well as the domestic equity requirement for ICT companies," he said.
But critics say that his government's newly imposed and also several proposed taxes will increase the cost of doing business in Kenya, including in the tech sector.
His administration in its first budget this year doubled the digital service tax to 3%, targeting foreign tech giants that use the internet to market and sell products.
The government had projected it would rake in billions in the local currency, the Kenyan shilling, from the doubled digital services tax, but critics warned it would discourage tech investors.
Ruto insisted his country was positioning itself as "Africa's business process outsourcing and creative economy hub," citing internet penetration and a growing workforce.
Kenya has in the past been accused of not tightening labor laws to prevent the exploitation of employees by tech companies such as Meta who were sued by former employees over poor working conditions and accused of paying low wages to content moderators.