How it is done: From forestry to pioneering Kenya’s Blue Economy

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The Nairobi Law Monthly caught up with Africa Plantation Capital CEO and MD of AVAKON, Eng. Kosta Kioleoglou at his office along Ngong Road and talked about the Blue Economy, his new venture, Avakon, and his future plans. Kioleoglou provides an overview of Avakon, its products and discusses future growth opportunities. He also outlines the company’s key competitive advantages. He spoke with Antony Mutunga.

Who is Avakon?

It is the vehicle to bring top of the range engineering, development and construction related brands in the East Africa Region. With an extensive background in the field, we decided to bring to the region unique solutions that we believe are missing from the market. Avakon now represents three top brands from different sectors.

What current brands does Avakon represent?

We are associated and representing Klaus Multi-parking, covering the sector of smart parking solutions, Cockpit, which provides some of the best smart house solutions, and Rogan Associates, a top European consulting engineering company with extensive experience and expertise in port infrastructure – development and maritime transport as well as transport planning, highway and intersection design, road safety studies, railroad and railways stations design, transport-generated environmental impact studies, and urban and architectural planning.

Could you give us a quick brief on these companies and what you have to offer?

Klaus multi-parking, the German giant and one of the leading companies internationally providing smart park solutions is one of the brands that Avakon is proud to introduce to the East Africa Market starting from Kenya. With a proven history of over 100 years, Klaus introduced its first car parking in 1964. Today Klaus is one of the leading manufacturers of parking systems in the world. With its headquarters in Germany and representatives in over 65 countries worldwide, Klauss is now offering the same solutions to East Africa Market via Avakon. The company offers a wide range of parking solutions with hundreds of fully or semi-automated parking spaces for simple houses to more complex structures.

Cockpit offers state-of-the-art remote home management solutions – an easy to install and operate solution covering the needs of every 21st century user. A few years ago, smartphones and tablets were considered a luxury; today, almost everyone has one. Similarly, intelligent home management will cease to be a privilege for a few and become an indispensable tool to ease our daily routine. Cockpit is a smart and simple system that enables one to control one’s home from anywhere in the world, using one intuitive app on a smartphone. We believe that, in a very short time, cockpit will be part of every new development and will be installed by many existing house owners.

Finally our property consulting, engineering and development background is the foundation of our association with Rogan Associates. Since 2013, I have been monitoring the developments of the property market as well as the infrastructure development of Kenya. A lot has been done so far and a lot more is going to happen in the near future. Apart from the significant traditional infrastructure projects in the mainland, there is a lot of potential in the coastal region of Kenya – especially targeting blue economy opportunities. The Blue Economy – sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of marine and coastal ecosystem – aims to move beyond business as usual, to consider economic development and ocean health as compatible propositions. Blue Economy is ideal for a long-term strategy aimed at supporting sustainable and equitable economic growth through oceans-related sectors and activities such as tourism, fisheries, renewable energy, and maritime transport. Kenya has started prioritising Blue Economy as the seventh sector to drive the achievement of Vision 2030 development agenda.

It is obvious that Blue Economy will play a key role and attract a lot of local and international interests in the coming years. Several companies are now taking a position in order to play a part in the country’s big plans for the development of a sustainable blue economy.

So what is exactly Avakon’s expertise regarding engineering?

We have been working on this with Rogan Associates since 2016. This collaboration combines decades of experience and expertise worldwide, covering all the fields of waterfront development, sea transportation, port operation and management, coastal engineering, maritime and harbour works, transport planning, environmental studies, macroeconomic analysis and planning, economic development strategies and measures, investment opportunities and portfolio planning, regional and urban analysis and planning, as well as port strategy at regional, national and international level.

Ranked as one of the top engineering consulting companies in Europe, specialising in Waterfront and Port infrastructure-development, as well as in Maritime Transport, Rogan Associates has been offering these services all over the world for the last 40 years. It is our privilege to represent them in East Africa.

Our aim is to provide the required technical know-how and innovation to support Kenya’s plans to foster and develop sustainable blue economy. We believe that Kenya is now ready to develop the blue economy as one of the most crucial sectors to drive the achievement of Vision 2030 development agenda, and we are ready to offer as much support as required towards this direction.

Since 2013, you have achieved objectives in your line of work to position yourself strategically. What deviate now?

In 2015, I was given the opportunity to introduce to the East Africa Region one of the leading agroforestry companies globally, APC group with the incorporation and ‘birth” of Africa Plantation Capital.

Although this venture seemed to be outside my field of expertise, it is directly related with land acquisition, project development and management, which are some of my fields of expertise – twice we have been awarded by the Kenya National Chamber of commerce and industry (KNCCi) as the “new business of the year, 2016 and Best Agribusiness Company, 2017. I am happy to be surrounded by a great management team, all of them Kenyans, who I believe are capable enough to continue running the company on its successful course.

This is what gave me the idea to start something new. I always like to look for new challenges and opportunities. Together with a colleague, Dr. Christos Solomonidis, we envisioned opportunities in the Blue Economy in 2016 and, two years later, I am ready to start this new journey with Avakon. I believe that there is a huge gap in the market for anyone who wants to provide high-quality services and products. This is what Avakon is about. Today with Klaus, Cockpit and Rogan and, in the near future, more brands, we will bring innovation and unique opportunities to the East Africa region. We are already setting up Avakon Uganda as we expand our operations within the region which will be proceeded with acquisition of several pieces of land in the path of growth of the capital. Ideally, our focus is in the area between Entebbe and Kampala where we will offer ready to build plots inside a state of the art gated community with a selection of European designed house plans. This will offer unique surroundings, security and a well-planned urban outlook. Avakon’s land projects will bring in a new way to invest in Uganda’s property market.

So, do you plan to withdraw from Africa Plantation Capital?

No, this is not part of my plans, at least not for now. APC remains one of my main priorities. I am just going to have to work a bit harder to build up together with my associates a new brand in the region. Although it might sound difficult, I am ready to face this challenge and make it happen.^

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