Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc is opening its first office in East Africa, drawn by increased demand for engines to generate electricity from renewable sources and to power locomotives and ships.
The case for the UK engineering firm setting up in the region is compelling, according to John Kelly, its president for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. East African nations including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have a population of more than 174 million people and an economic growth rate of 6.5%, he said on the sidelines of an energy conference in Nairobi.
Business in East Africa could echo the success Rolls-Royce has seen in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, where its market share has doubled in the past three years, he said.
“It’s important for us to be in Africa, to understand Africa and to make sure that we optimize our solutions and our offerings for the market and its requirements,” Kelly said.
The company is in talks with Kenya Railways Corp. on powering locomotives, he said, without giving details. It will also focus on naval solutions and electricity requirements for data centers, a growing market in Kenya valued at about $100 million over the next three years, he said.
East Africa is “perfect” for the generation of sustainable fuels as it has ready access to the raw materials such as water for green hydrogen. Rolls-Royce’s engines can run on such fuels, which include hydro-treated vegetable oils, he said.
Kenya already produces 80% of its power from renewable sources such as geothermal and wind. It is considering nuclear generation, which Rolls-Royce sees as a key component of powering the world, according to Kelly.
“We want to be front and center in terms of providing those power solutions, both on the land, in terms of energy requirements, in the air, in terms of aviation,” Kelly said.
Rolls-Royce has two offices in the South African cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town, a presence in Zambia’s mining industry and in Nigeria through a local representative.