AFRICAs TIME, 2nd Annual SME Conference
AFRICAs TIME; Accelerating SMEs potential‘ was this years theme at the 2nd Annual SMEs Conference which took place on 20th and 21st November, at the Strathmore University Auditorium. The conference organized by Strathmore Enterprise Development Centre (SEDC), sought to educate, inspire and motivate Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs). The event was attended by many business owners from across the country, with opportunities for exhibition of products and services.
In his opening remarks, Dean School of Management and Commerce (SMC) Strathmore University, Dr. David Wangombe spoke of the benefits of the SEDC trainings and why the conference was beneficial to entrepreneurs. So far we have trained over 10,000 entrepreneurs through capacity building, there is no doubt we have great entrepreneurs in our country. Our objective with the conference is creating a forum for networking among SMEs, he said. The Conference objective was to set the pace and determine the direction of entrepreneurship in Africa by:
- Creating a forum for networking among SMEs and linking them to various enterprise interested organizations and individuals who are value adding.
- Identifying the various challenges faced by SMEs and opportunities available for them in the market.
Prof. Gituro Wainaina, acting Director General Vision 2030, spoke on the direction entrepreneurs should take from a young age. In his keynote address, the professor urged parents to get children off to the right start in business by encouraging creativity, building relevant business skills and ensuring children learn how to run businesses from the onset.
KRA representative Ms Judith Njagi, acting Chief Manager Domestic Taxes &Small taxpayers Services Nairobi region, spoke on the different kinds of taxes for business owners and payment details. She highlighted on the fact that entrepreneurs can now pay their taxes through mobile services. We have mobile service facilities that you can use to pay up to Kshs, 70,000. For persons with disabilities, you qualify for income tax exemption on taxable value to kshs.150,000 per month, said Ms Njagi.
Day two of the conference involved entrepreneurs learning about the role of the government in promoting SMEs and the use of ICT in marketing businesses.
To start the sessions, Prof Ruth Kiraka, Dean School of Graduates Studies Strathmore University, presented a research paper on gender and enterprise development. The research was conducted by Prof. Kiraka, Dr. David Wangombe and Dr. Hellen Otieno. Prof. Kiraka took the team through her findings, highlighting the key distinct areas notable to entrepreneurs. 40 to 60% of women own small businesses while business start-ups ranged at 29% for both male and female entrepreneurs. Prof. Kiraka also noted that women had more difficulties accessing finances from finance intermediaries such as banks as compared to men. The research findings of this study have been presented to the government for assessment and implementation of new strategies.
MSEA (Micro and Small Enterprise Authority) is key in job creation in the country; this was pointed out by Mr. Patrick Mwangi acting CEO MSEA, Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development. Mr. Mwangi, a guest speaker explained that the government is set to improve enterprise development in the country, through research. From the research conducted, the government now has better guidance on how to direct the country on matters enterprise, said Mr. Mwangi.
The Director, Center for Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT) at Strathmore Law School, Dr. Isaac Rutenberg took entrepreneurs through IP facts advising on the importance of registering patents. His presentation entailed stages of business start-ups and advised on the point business owners need to ensure they protect their inventions and innovations. He sensitized on the fact that as businesses grow and become successful, there is high potential of conflict arising. If you are successful expect conflict, and with regard to IP, you need to speak to an expert to establish that you are in the right setup, he said.
To crown off the days presentations, Ms. Agnes Karingo, Director, Research and Awareness, spoke to entrepreneurs on the importance of legitimate businesses. In her address, Ms. Karingo advised participants to be vigilant in ensuring that they are not involved in any counterfeit acts. If you are found counterfeiting whether through packaging, branding, selling or possessing control of goods/products and services not your own, you will face the law, she said. Ms. Karingo also highlighted to the conference participants on functions of the office; fines/charges offenders face for offenses at different levels.
All sessions involved Q/A sessions enabling entrepreneurs seek clarifications and gain more indepth knowledge from each expert. Business owners, Mr. James Munyori, Mr. Peter Thuo (Strathmore alumni) and M/s Grace Ndegwa, who have gone through SEDC training programs, took time to advise the entrepreneurs on the importance of attending the trainings and how they benefited in their businesses from the classes.
Each day was crowned with guests and the Strathmore family visiting the exhibition stands, opening doors for networking and sharing of ideas.