President Uhuru Kenyatta has pledged to give more support to local small and medium sized enterprises. Speaking during the SME Conference 2018 at Strathmore University, the President acknowledged that more effort must be placed to support small-scale traders.
Folding away his prepared speech, President Kenyatta instead opted for ‘an honest discussion’ on the real issues facing traders, key among them being a conducive business environment and imported goods from foreign markets.
Approximately 75% of Kenya’s workforce is employed in the SME sector which has grown by nearly 52.9% over the last 5 years according to an IMF report compiled using data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). This has been attributed to the improving conduciveness of the business environment within Kenya. However, the improving conditions have attracted investment opportunities not only domestically but also from abroad with Chinese interests taking a large share of newly registered business.
Mr. Joseph Maina of the IMF says, “This means the environment is becoming conducive for institutions to register. There are incentives that the Government is giving.”
President Kenyatta, under the industrialization pillar of the Big Four agenda has directed his administration to find solutions to issues facing SMEs and boost their growth. Energy CS Charles Keter has been directed to review the high rate of electricity which has adversely affected business people.
A substantial proportion of SMEs operating costs goes to electricity and increases in the retail cost per unit has seen many SMEs rethink their production modules and revise their own retail prices or face financial ruin. The business owners at the conference sighed in collective relief at the President’ directive and all wait to see when and by how much the electricity rate will fall.
In response to complaints raised by small-scale operators in the fishing industry, President Kenyatta promised business owners that imports from China will be controlled so as not to strangle the local market. Importation of fish into Kenya was first proposed as a counter measure to falling supply of the commodity but since then measures have been put in place to revive Kenya’s fish numbers and resuscitate the industry, also in line with the Big Four agenda.
Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi ‘Sonko’ was not spared direction either. “Sonko how long does it take for you to fix a leaking sewer, some things we just need to fold our sleeves and get down on the ground and see them work,” the President said. Infrastructure in Nairobi and other towns has also attracted the attention of the Head of State, with him hinting at a possible visit to Gikomba market which was ravaged by fire causing losses worth millions to SMEs operating in the market.
The President ended his speech by saying, “This meeting cannot just end here, we have heard and as a government in partnership with the counties we must sit and provide solutions on how and what way to help you because we owe it to you”.