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Rise in Muslim population opens business avenues in Kenya

14/1/12  www.coastweek.com

THE MUSLIM POPULATION, ACCORDING TO ESTIMATES, IS SET TO HIT ABOUT 6 MILLION BY 2030.

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) — A surge in population of Muslims in Kenya has seen many businesses repackage their products to conform to Halal standards to win more buyers.

Majority of businesses in the East African nation are making products with Halal specifications in an attempt to appeal to a rising Muslim community.

Halal certification is given to products, which have undergone inspection and have been found to conform to Islamic dietary beliefs and other laws, therefore, they can be lawfully be used by Muslims.

Some of the products being rebranded to match up Halal specifications and conform to Sharia laws are cooking oil, milk, bread, spices, soaps, detergents, candies, bottled water, medicines and snacks.

Others include butchers, fast food restaurants, catering services, insurance schemes, bank accounts, hospitals, medicines, hotels, lodgings and chemists.

The products and services now bear the label Halal to assure the Muslim community that they have been inspected and adhere to Islamic laws.

In the capital Nairobi, Kenchic is among businesses that have rebranded and included the word Halal on their products and eateries.

At a Kenchic restaurant in Nairobi’s industrial area, the word Halal is conspicuously written next to the logo of the company.

It is a similar situation for Galito’s and Baker’s Inn, which like Kenchic, specializes in chicken, cakes, pizzas, sausages, samosas, French fries, among other fast foods.

“Businesses in Kenya are realizing that the Muslim community are an important segment of the Kenyan society and must be catered for as consumers,” Hussein Jibril, an accountant, said in an interview on Saturday.

“Most Muslims are guided by their faith, which dictates most of their lives. That is where they go to school, what they eat and how they dress. This is something that Kenyan businessmen had ignored for long but they cannot do that anymore,” he noted.

Without the Halal label, he said Kenyan businesses were losing market for their products, especially among the Muslim community.

“Many Muslims preferred to buy imported products, especially those from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East. These products were clearly labelled Halal thus appealing to Muslims,” he observed.

The accountant further said that the Muslim community is becoming a significant economic block in Kenya.

“The past few years has seen Muslims, specifically Somalis assert themselves economically in Kenya by investing in various businesses. Most of them own residential buildings, restaurants, forex bureaus, schools and clothing businesses in Eastleigh. This has made them significant players in the Kenyan economy,” he said.

Kenya National Population Census in 2009 estimated that there were about 3 million Muslims in the country. This was approximately 7 percent of the nation’s 39 million people.

The population, according to estimates, is set to hit about 6 million by 2030.

The rise in the Muslim population in Kenya has been attributed to an influx of Somali nationals, many have settled in Nairobi and others live as refugees in camps.

The population increase has assured Kenya’s businessmen that a market exists for their products, which are Halal certified and Sharia compliant.

Kenya Bureau of Halal Certification (KBHC) lists about 150 companies that have been certified.

The bureau notes that the certification is done after thorough inspection and continuous checks by KBHC trained inspectors and monitors.

According to KBHC, companies that meet the stringent certification criteria are issued with a Halal certificate and a logo. The companies then imprint the logo on their packaging materials of the certified product or use it in any form of advertisement.

But as businesses in the East African nation rush to endear their products to the Muslim community, analysts warn some businesses are not using the Halal certification genuinely.

“The Muslim community has grown tremendously in Kenya and across the world. People want to make businesses out of them. Some of the products being marketed as Halal may not even certified,” said Hadija Mohamed, a teacher in Nairobi.

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