On Thursday, 10th September 2020, we hosted this year’s edition of the Annual SME Conference in partnership with NCBA Bank. This year’s event was unique in that it was the first-ever virtual SME conference and attracted more than 200 attendees. Our theme is ‘Unlocking SME Potential to Increase Resilience and Excellence in Uncertain Times’.
The SME Conference is a joint initiative by SBS and NCBA Bank that aims to create a forum where the financial sector, higher education, government stakeholders, and SMEs can have candid conversations on issues affecting Small and Medium Enterprises.
During his opening remarks, Dr. George Njenga, SBS Executive Dean, urged MSMEs to strengthen themselves to garner support by association and networking. “Individually, MSMEs are unable to participate in policy decisions at the National and County government levels. Without associating and forming cohesive networks, they may not invite attractive and cost-effective funding. Yet, they are the backbone of the African Economy. It is necessary that the MSME networks spread across the entire country. This would ensure the inclusion of a vast population currently excluded from policy Government and Private sector interventions. A large number of SMEs are operating at the county level. Furthermore, women entrepreneurs need special mention and a support framework because they account for over half of the MSME members,’’ he said.
John Gachora, NCBA Group Managing Director, spoke to the importance of the survival and growth of SMEs in Kenya. “SMEs are the engine driving the economy by creating employment for the youth and are key supply chains to households,” he said. “With the current pandemic, many businesses have closed with others reducing their headcount. Even the ones that have remained resilient say their cashflows are reducing fast. However, it is good to see factories repurposed to supply PPEs and hotels refitted to become isolation centers,” he added.
Lawrence Karanja, CAS, Ministry on Industry, Trade, and Cooperatives while delivering Hon. Betty Maina, Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Cooperative’s keynote address, emphasized the government’s commitment to supporting SMEs. “We cannot ignore the fact that SMEs account for 98% of all businesses in the country and employ about 15 million people,” he said.
In response to the pandemic, the government has put in place stimulus measures to support SMEs, such as lowering value-added tax and corporate tax along with credit guarantee schemes. Lawrence noted that on top of the reduction of taxes, the credit guarantee scheme allowed the government to guarantee access to credit facilities for SMEs, something they may not have been able to access before.
According to a Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) Survey conducted between May and June 2020, 74% of businesses surveyed reported high or very high negative impact due to the pandemic. The highest impact was among small and micro enterprises where 83% and 76% respectively reported high or very high negative impact as compared to 50% of large enterprises. Speaking at the event, Carole Karuga, (KEPSA) Chief Executive Officer, highlighted several initiatives by KEPSA aimed at mentoring and training businesses led by women and youth.
Kwame Owino, CEO Institute of Economic Affairs, emphasized the need for SMEs to build their business on technology, “building on a technology platform is going to be inevitable for businesses in the new normal,” he said.
Adding on the importance of technology, Juliana Rotich, Co-Founder, Ushahidi, BRCK, Boya App said, “the fourth industrial revolution is powered by technology and provides the perfect opportunities for entrepreneurs to rethink and reorganize their business models to provide services in different ways.”
SMEs jointly contribute to approximately 30% of GDP and 83% of employment in Kenya. They have been one of the primary drivers of economic growth in the country, despite financing constraints and a competitive business environment. SMEs cannot wade through the murky waters of the pandemic alone, they need support in rethinking, rebooting, and reorganizing their business models to adapt to the new normal.
About the Enterprise Development Programme
The Enterprise Development Programme is a 16 weeks course that is tailored to meet and solve some of the needs and challenges SMEs face. The course is hands-on, and participant-centered and is designed to equip entrepreneurs with tools and skills to:
Learn more here
About the SME Conference
The Annual SME Conference is a joint initiative of the Entrepreneurship Development Center at Strathmore University Business School and the NCBA Bank.
The Conference provides a platform for SMEs to engage the government, the financial sector, and higher education stakeholders on challenges and opportunities available for SMEs.
This year’s Conference 2020 will take place virtually for two days across one week, yesterday’s event marked the first session of the conference. The second session will take place on Thursday, 17th September 2020 from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM.
Article by Juliet Hinga
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