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SMEs Presidential Roundtable: Discussions on Cross-Cutting Issues & Interventions

H.E Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, addressing the Small and Medium Sized Enterprise (SMEs) owners at the SME Presidential Round table hosted by Strathmore University.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto attended the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Presidential Roundtable held at Strathmore University, and sponsored by NIC Bank. His delegation also included Nairobi County governor, Mike Sonko, Cabinet Secretary for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Peter Munya, and his Transport counterpart, James Macharia.

On the first day of the roundtable, delegates from agro-processing, aquaculture, construction, livestock, textile and trade value chains had an opportunity to discuss growth opportunities, areas of collaboration and the vision for each of the sectors. This forum was opportune as the Kenyan private sector contributes over 84% to the GDP of Kenya. The segmentation of the private sector reveals that the role of the informal sector is immense yet is still largely misunderstood by policy makers.

Emphasizing this, Dr. Edward Mungai, DVC Planning and Development, said, “We are here to provide an opportunity to discuss issues affecting SMEs and to see where the government can step in to solve them.” On the second day, representatives from the different clusters had a chance to address the President on issues plaguing SMEs. Some of the issues discussed included lack of access to affordable finance, high taxation and the need for capacity building.

The construction cluster brought the Technical and Vocational Educational Training Centres to task urging them to produce technicians who are able to run state-of-the-art machinery in wood and timber factories. A recommendation to have an “African Attire Day” or “Made in Kenya” clothing day came from the textile cluster as a way of increasing local consumption of apparel designed and made in Kenya. Furthermore, traders urged the government to recognise hawkers as legal traders and to provide permanent and secure markets for hawkers with basic service provision. They also asked for grabbed public land to be redeemed so as to create space for traders.

The president put aside his prepared speech and acknowledged that the government has not sufficiently addressed the issues affecting SMEs. “We haven’t done enough to address the issues affecting the SME sector. I am embarrassed to be reminded about the Gikomba market, something we should have dealt with already,” he said.

Making off-the-cuff remarks, he directed the Cabinet Secretary for Energy to review electricity tariffs with a view to reducing the cost of power incurred by SMEs. He insisted on the necessity for a follow-up session at the same venue in one month’s time so as to assess the progress made on the recommendations put forward.

This roundtable ignited a conversation throughout the country on the problems that plague the owners of SMEs with many acknowledging that the issues cited mar the SME industry consistently.

This article was written by Wambui Gachari.

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