Q&A: Standing tall


The 28-storey Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nairobi’s central business district is an internationally-renowned East African venue for conferences, meetings, exhibitions and special events. During its 39-year history it has been the host of several well-attended international conferences, seminars, exhibitions and summits. Fred Simiye, Managing Director at the KICC, took some time to explain what the centre is all about.

Q: What is the history behind the origins of the KICC?
A: The Kenyatta International Convention Centre was commissioned by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of the Republic of Kenya, in 1967. It was designed by the Norwegian architects Karl Henrik Nøstvik and David Mutiso. The construction was carried out by contractors Solel Boneh & Factah in three phases. Phase one was the construction of the podium; phase two consisted of the main tower; and phase three involved the Plenary. Construction was completed in 1973, with the opening ceremony in September 1973 presided over by President Kenyatta. The 105-metre tower consists of 28 floors, including a revolving restaurant which offers panoramic views of the city, rotating 360 degrees in 76 minutes. The building’s light terracotta façade reflects traditional African architecture, as does the use of simple solid shapes – cuboids make up the Plenary hall, the tower consists of a cylinder composed of several cuboids, and the amphitheatre and helipad both resemble cones. There are several well-equipped conference and meeting rooms with the largest having a capacity over 4,000 delegates. The KICC is equipped with simultaneous interpretation equipment with a capability of up to seven languages, a modern business centre, a banking facility, tour and travel services, expansive grounds and ample and secure parking. It is often depicted as an icon of Nairobi.

Q: Why is a large convention centre important to Kenya and Nairobi?
A: Kenya has positioned itself as preferred meetings destination with big, high profile events being hosted in Kenya. Increased conference capacity will enhance the region’s ability to bid for more conventions.

Q: What type of events do you see hosted at the KICC?
Kenya and KICC have hosted world-renown conferences and exhibitions, most of them association- and U-based conferences.

Q: Can you list the five most memorable events in KICC’s history?
World Bank Conference In 1973; United Nations Conference On Trade And Development In 1976; The Joe Biden Public Speech; World Trade Organisation (WTO) 10th Ministerial Conference; Global Entreprenuship Summit(GES); World Public Relations Forum In Emerging Economny (WPRF); International Federation Of Biomedical Laboratory Scientists (IFBLS)

Q:What is business like currently?
The meetings industry in Kenya is claiming its share through the international conferences the country has hosted and is still prepared to host. The MICE sector contributes immensely to the Kenyan economy – as much as 0.87% ($25 million) to the GDP. The tourism sector in total contributes $94 million to the GDP.

Q: What makes Kenya an attractive meetings and conferences destination?
It is certainly geographically well-placed to appeal to many international communities. Kenya has one of the largest airports in East and Central Africa, making it easy to get to us. The climate is favourable and Nairobi is so close to the country’s wildlife the visitors don’t have to leave the city to get a taste of untamed Africa.

Q: What changes have you noticed in the meetings and conferences space in the last decade?
Meetings have helped develop other industries because we have to involve the hotel business and other industries. Peoples perspectives on meetings have changed over the years. The MICE sector has brought a new different meaning to meetings.

Q: Kenya has had a difficult few years, due to the impact of terrorism on tourism. What’s the prevailing feeling currently?
The country is secure and countries that had placed travel bans have since dropped them. The country is safe for tourists.

Q: Are you seeing much development in the business travel space, in terms of new hotels, changes to the airport, roads etc?
Yes, most of the new hotels are doing well. Security at the airport has been beefed up due to the recent terrorism attacks around the country.

Q: Do you have any tips for first-time visitors to Nairobi?
Be ready for a breath taking moment and make sure you visit the city’s major attractions.

Q: What attractions would you recommend for a first-time visitor?
You get a view of the whole city from the KICC helipad. Be sure to see the Nairobi national park, the Nairobi Railway Museum, thee Giraffe centre and the Carnivore.

Q: What is the KICC long-term vision, and where would it like to be in 10 years’ time?
To be the leading, global, premium MICE destination in Africa.