Visiting Kenya with President Steinmeier: Impressions from the first day

This week, ecoligo CEO Martin Baart is visiting Kenya together with German President Frank Walter Steinmeier and a hand-selected group of German businesses active in the country. Being a part of the economic delegation is an incredible honour and something not many people have the chance to experience. After landing in Kenya, I caught up with Martin to find out how he’s feeling about the trip.

The arrival of the presidential plane at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
The arrival of the presidential plane at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

How’s it going so far, Martin? It must be pretty exciting.

It really is exciting to be part of an economic delegation as part of a bigger political trip. I’m seeing a side of life that I’ve not seen before. Flying in the presidential plane was extraordinary in itself and meeting Mr. Steinmeier on the plane to present what we do as ecoligo was the cherry on the cake. Now we’ve had an official reception, on invitation of the German ambassador Annett Günther, where we had the chance to meet German entrepreneurs and other German institutions representatives, such as from AHK, or the embassy.

I am honestly impressed by the high calibre of people around, and their commitment to Africa. It’s a great honour and at the same time very surreal – standing next to the President of Germany while discussing energy markets in Kenya and having a snack.

Martin Baart boarding the presidential plane to Nairobi.

What’s the plan for the next couple of days?

As business delegation we have a slightly different program than Steinmeier. Tomorrow, while he meets with Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, the businesspeople will visit a factory of German medical company B. Braun. After this we will meet the Kenyan minister of trade and industries for a joint lunch. Followed by a meeting with the Kenyan minister of Information, Technology and Communication. Then we meet Kenyan and German representatives of companies, before we head to the United Nations office in Nairobi. The day then ends with the official welcoming by Kenya’s president Kenyatta at a state banquet. You can see the days are pretty packed!

Looks like it!

On Tuesday, the focus is on the topics of nature and economy: in the morning, we meet with some IT companies and visit the Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology. We then meet with German development bank KfW & DEG and their local partners. The day is finished with a visit to the famous Nairobi National Park.

On Wednesday, the delegation will continue on to Sudan, but I’ll remain in Kenya to spend some time with our team here and meet all our local partners.

Sounds like you’ll get to meet some interesting people. Did you ever think you’d be doing this?

Nope! I grew up in a small village close to Trier, I had a very ordinary childhood and both of my parents worked a lot. I did too, starting as an Electronics Technician, then gaining a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, a Master of Business and Engineering and recently a Global Executive Master of Business Administration.

I’ve put a lot of effort in to get to where I am now, but I never ever expected to receive an honour like this. It makes me really proud of what we’re achieving with ecoligo, that the company has been recognised in this way.

What do you think it means for ecoligo?

We’re one of just six organisations that have been selected for this trip. The others: SiemensKrones AGPilz Schindler GmbHAfricaWorks and SAFRI are all very accomplished and are having great impact. That ecoligo is alongside these companies shows that we’re no longer a start-up, but a significant company with a lot of potential.

We take our responsibility to our clients and the crowdinvestors that finance the solar projects very seriously and our reputation already reflects that. I think that joining this trip will strengthen this association further.

What are you most looking forward to?

So far, every minute has been illuminating and I expect that’s going to continue. But meeting President Kenyatta will definitely be a highlight. I’m also really looking forward to some interesting conversations with the others on the trip and the people we’re meeting here. Relationships and network are so key to building a business and I hope that there are some collaborations coming out of the trip that enable us all to increase our impact in Kenya.

Sounds like it’s going to be a remarkable experience. Looking forward to hearing more after the trip!

Read more about the background for the trip in an interview with President Frank Walter Steinmeier here.