Airtel Kenya has been saved from forcibly selling a 30% stake to local investors after US tech giant Amazon successfully lobbied President William Ruto to drop the foreign ownership rules as a condition for doing business in the country. Business Daily Africa quotes President Ruto as telling a regional business summit for US investors in Nairobi: ‘This position is untenable and has made it impossible for large corporations to invest in Kenya. We will review this position and remove this requirement to facilitate greater investment in our ICT sector.’ He added: ‘I hope that Amazon, now that I have kept my part of the bargain, you keep yours. But it is not just about Amazon, it is all about other ICT companies that want to invest in our country.’
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in April 2021 the Ministry of ICT published an amendment to the National ICT Policy Guidelines, 2020, giving Airtel three years to comply with the requirement to have a 30% local shareholding – despite the cellco’s previous exemption from the rule. Airtel was expected to either sell a stake to a strategic investor, or list its shares on the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) by March 2024.
Airtel Kenya is wholly owned by Airtel Africa, which is in turn majority owned by India’s Bharti Airtel.