Stephen Jennings, lead Tatu City investor takes to the public to tell the ‘truth’

Tatu City lead investor Stephen Jennings. Photo courtesy of
Tatu City lead investor Stephen Jennings. Photo courtesy of

Explosive! Something that an investigative journalist has been contacted to unearth, and bring out is coming out to be corporate greed and corruption. Beyond this, the investigative journalist, likely foreign, is also likely to provide some insights into foreign direct investments in Kenya. This is critical in offering critical lessons to what not to do especially in undertaking research on who and how to determine who becomes part of shareholding of foreign investments in Kenya.

“It is like pilling an orange with a hard skin. You cannot necessarily start from a specific place. Anywhere will work. You just need to start,” asserted Stephen Jennings when addressing a public gathering at the Louis Leakey Auditorium. This forum could actually not have taken place. Attempts had been made to stop it. An earlier interview with leading TV show host Jeff Koinange on KTN was successfully stopped, highlighting how media can also be cowed into submitting to the corporate world.

In his speech, gallantly and plainly delivered, Jennings brings out the rough patch, twists and turns that investors have to muddle to make it in the country.

The decision to take it to the public is informed by the reality that in many cases, public pressure and increased public knowledge works magic in public policy. Key government institutions including the judiciary and executive in which insiders have core and integrated relationships with the business community, funneling and fueling private corruption largely contributes to the lack of increased and sustained FDI’s in the country.

But where an investment in a good idea and public support exists, courage is what keeps a person who can be described as a pioneer and bullish emerging market investor believe in the realization of it, despite the challenges.

Buoyed with an investment of over $100 million in the project, Rendeavour, Africa’s largest urban developer, is the majority shareholder in Tatu City. This significant investment in a 2,500-acre, mixed-use and mixed-income development with plans for residential, commercial, industrial, tourism, social and recreation amenities for more than 70,000 residents and 30,000 day visitors is what is awaiting Kenyans when the project is realized.

Underlying Tatu City’s design is a visionary concept aiming to shift urban development in Kenya from the familiar single node model to a decentralized urban environment. By doing so, Tatu will significantly de-congest the City of Nairobi by offering a unique live, work and play environment. Tatu City is the largest urban development in Kenya with the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs and homes, with the great majority of these being affordable homes and apartments.

Currently, some legal tussles have mired the commencement of the project in full. Kenyans Vimal Shah, Nahashon Nyagah and Stephen Mwagiru hold minority shares in Tatu City through a Mauritian company, Manhattan Coffee Investment Limited. Mwagiru, Shah and Nyagah are embroiled in a shareholder dispute in a Mauritius court. The three Kenyans are what, first stalled the project from starting in 2008. Since 2010, to the recent court filed in September 2015, the courts have hampered one thing or another in the implementation of the ambitious project.

Jennings seems to understand the Kenyan sphere or he has instructive advisers. He argues that leadership, change and courage are what will take to move things in this country. This project has no government subsidy or funding, something that makes the investments quite a risk, but which had not been forecasted.

The problems outside of the courts but including the courts also stem from board wrangles. The Tatu City Board include Stephen Jennings, Frank Mosler, Pius Ngugi, Hansa Jochum Horn and Frances Holliday from Rendeavour and Nahashon Nyagah and Vimal Shah.

“We want to make this a reality. But we cannot make it with corruption,” said Jennings. Luckily, the first project Kijani Ridge has already commenced. This 150 acres real estate project was commissioned by US Ambassador Robert Godec, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed and Kiambu Governor William Kabogo. These guests indicated how high, the country is embracing foreign investors.

In addition, infrastructure plans are underway, most of them having been completed. This includes water pipings, mapping of schools and hospitals, electricity supply and land among others.

Moreover, Dormans have already broken ground and at the commencement of their plant, it will be expected to handle more than 15, 000 tonnes of coffee a year.

During his hour long speech, Jennings showed various details of wire transfers, agreements and individuals involved in them, painting a lack of honesty and integrity in Kenya’s corporate world. Vimal Shah and Nahashon Nyagah who are grossly indicted have not come out publicly to defend themselves but opted to use courts, both in Kenya and Mauritius. In fact. Jennings invited the two to a public debate about Tatu City, something they certainly will not embrace.

Already, investigations are ongoing on alleged fraudulent transfer of land by Nyagah from to his relatives and cohorts.

It is also surprising the marginal investment, even as minority shareholders Nahashon and Vimal have been, despite Nahashon also being the current chair of the board, most of their initial investment is a loan from Rendeavour. Nahashon owns 1.8 percent whole Vimal’s $289,000 investment translates to .03 percent of Tatu City.

According to the company,

“The acquisition of the land was 100 percent financed by Jennings and partners. The Kenyan shareholders, pledging to support the project’s development, received a finder’s fee and funding from Rendeavour to acquire shares in Tatu City Limited, but the funding was never repaid.”

Jennings hopes to recover the investments once the court battles are settled and also have better and supported board members.

“We won’t stop until all assets are protected and corruption ends. Change requires courage. You cannot always wait for someone else to take the step,” asserted Jennings, indicating their resoluteness in affirming their commitment to the Tatu City investment and the model future of private urban development in Kenya, Africa and the emerging market at large.



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