Kenya-US SME trade initiative boon to SMEs

Kenya-US SME trade initiative boon to SMEs

25 Kenyan enterprises will be provided with sector specific information on business opportunities in the US markets

The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), has embarked on recruitment of the first cohort of twenty-five businesses in the Kenya-US Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Trade Initiative.

The 25 SMEs, looking to either scale up globally or grow exports to the US market, will be provided with sector specific information on business opportunities in the US markets. This is in addition to imports and exports business exchanges among other initiatives aimed at improving market access and linkages between SMES in the two countries.

Speaking during the virtual launch, Florie Liser, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), introduced CCA as the “leading US business association” focused solely on promoting and facilitating US-Africa trade, investment, and commercial engagement.

“Our member companies are multinationals and SMEs active in Africa’s key growth sectors, including agribusiness, health, energy, ICT, trade, and finance. We serve as an intermediary between our member firms and essential U.S. and African government and private sector leaders to facilitate successful business initiatives in Africa,” she said.

Signed in New York on November 2021 by Carole Kariuki, CEO, KEPSA and Ms Liser, in the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, the trade initiative aims at supporting greater US-Kenya trade under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). 

Second is the promotion of US-Kenya SME-driven trade and investment by capitalizing on and creating business relationships between Kenyan and US entrepreneurs as envisioned by the U.S. Prosper Africa Build Together campaign and initiative. 

Lastly, the initiative aims to develop a database and online market of trade opportunities that will allow Kenyan and US SMEs to connect with potential buyers, suppliers, financiers, investors, and other business partners.

Carole Kariuki, CEO, KEPSA said that the initiative provides a unique platform to facilitate US and Kenya SME partnerships, support women and youth-run Kenyan entrepreneurs as well as US women, minority, and diaspora owned businesses, and to help SMEs in both countries address the current challenges in accessing the two markets. 

“Eighty percent of jobs in Kenya are created by the SMEs who play a critical role in supporting economic stability and enabling the country to cope with related shocks resulting from periodic economic cycles. To underscore how important SMEs are to our economy, data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics record that SMEs accounted for 83.6% of total employment created in the year 2019,” she said.

She added that among other things, KEPSA was pushing for establishment of the credit guarantee scheme to ease credit access for SMEs and the enactment of the movable property securities Act 2017 which enables SMEs to sue movable assets as collateral in their businesses.

Also present at the event was Jas Bedi, Chairman, Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (KEPROBA), and Vice-Chair KEPSA. Others were Sam Mwale, KEPSA Advisor and US Representative and Miguel Estien, National Director, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and SMEs among other attendees from Kenya and the US.

Bedi noted the role of SME linkages to enhance value addition and expand value chains around local manufacturing and finishing of products for export. 

“We have been taught that global supply chains can be disrupted very quickly, and we need to create a local area network or an alternative supplier basis that can be relied on. The role of SME industrial linkages in this case is to have products which are locally manufactured get access to international markets,” he said.

Miguel Estien, National Director, MBDA, highlighted four MBDA Expert Centre Programs whose key mandate is spotting and identifying minority businesses in the US, and supporting them for growth by connecting them to larger markets. MBDA also provides technical assistance to these businesses and connects them to Governments in the US and beyond.

The overarching goal of the US-Kenya SME Trade Initiative is to provide a unique platform to facilitate American and Kenyan SME business linkage and partnerships. The program will provide support US and Kenyan minority, women, youth, and diaspora owned businesses to access the Kenyan and the
US markets. 

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