It is a new dawn for youth in Kwale as Invest in Africa (IIA) in collaboration with Base Titanium Limited unveils a business acceleration program to formalize and catalyze the growth of youth-owned/led micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Kwale County. The initiative, named the Kwale Youth Biashara Program, involves formalizing businesses, business skills and finance training, digital skills training, business coaching, and linkages to market and finance. Under this initiative, IIA will provide young entrepreneurs with tailored capacity building through training sessions and boot camps. The young entrepreneurs will also have an opportunity to onboard their businesses onto the Biashara.Now, IIA’s unique technology-based business membership platform, to access procurement opportunities within the IIA network among other business services.

Youth make up to 75% of the Kenyan population, according to the 2019 Population and Census results. This statistic means that the country stands on the runway of economic take-off if it finds the best way to harness the energy, creativity, and entrepreneurship that young people can offer.

However, young entrepreneurs in Kenya face a myriad of challenges that curtail their success in the entrepreneurship venture. Lack of business skills and experience is one of the main setbacks ailing the take-off of youth-led businesses. Research has shown that most MSMEs, the majority of which are youth-led, do not have a business plan, are not formally registered, and do not have financial records. These MSMEs do not meet the minimal criteria to access industry opportunities, including the necessary financing to grow.

According to a 2022 survey conducted by IIA in Kwale, young entrepreneurs lack the business and digital literacy skills needed to run an enterprise successfully. The survey also revealed that most youth-led enterprises do not have access to finance and trade opportunities due to a lack of the requisite compliance and a failure to meet procurement requirements. These findings agree with an earlier study undertaken in 2020 by IIA in Kwale and Turkana Counties: The impact of COVID-19 on Rural Small and Growing Businesses and Recommended Measures to build their long-term Resilience.

The Kwale Youth Biashara Program comes in handy to enable young entrepreneurs to navigate the modern-day business environment. The program will equip the participating entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to formally run their businesses. It will also support them throughout their compliance journeys by ensuring they can register their enterprises and acquire the obligatory trade requirements. Through coaching, which is part of the program, the entrepreneurs will understand and incorporate key business elements such as ESG, investor readiness, and entrepreneurship mindset shift. This intervention will improve trade for youth-led businesses by allowing them to fully trade in the various value chains and position them for funding opportunities. By signing up for Biashara Now, the youth-led enterprises can apply for tender opportunities from big, developed enterprises such as Base Titanium Limited, which form part of IIA’s network of corporates, multinationals, and development partners.

IIA’s vision is to be the leading network in accelerating trade and investment with small and growing businesses in Africa. The organization hopes to achieve this by empowering enterprises to create sustainable jobs by improving access to skills, markets, and finance. The Kwale Youth Biashara Program, under the partnership with Base Titanium Limited, aligns with one of IIA’s key focus areas to engender the inclusion of youth in enterprise to champion inclusive private sector growth and catalyze MSMEs.

IIA acknowledges partnership as a core value and is keen to collaborate with key players in the business field to implement initiatives geared toward driving sustainable economic prosperity. The organization recognizes the immense contribution of MSMEs to the Kenyan economy. As such, IIA understands the need to empower high-potential groups such as the youth to grow MSMEs as key to bolstering the economy.

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As a business owner/leader, is your business viable for funding opportunities?

For Lyimmo Magani, this question began to linger in his mind when he noticed his funding requests to expand his business were either turned down or never replied.

Lyimmo is the founder and CEO of L's Food Lab Ltd, a Kenyan-based manufacturing start-up. L's Food Lab Ltd, which goes by the name brand Adisia, manufactures consumable products that include seasoning spices and sauces such as chill, ketchup, and mayonnaise.

When he founded L's Food Lab Ltd in 2019, Lyimmo hoped to lead the company through a flawless growth trajectory. His dream was to acquire a 15% market share, create more jobs, and impact society through charitable programs.

However, along the way, Lyimmo faced setbacks in attempts to raise the funds he required to grow his business. He used to send out funding requests to investors and financiers, but they rejected, and others never replied. Lyimmo’s business, like most micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Kenya, was unattractive to funders and investors.

Lack of access to finance is one of the main challenges curtailing the growth of MSMEs. While formality (possession of formal business documents) is a requirement to access finance, most MSMEs operate within the informal sector and do not qualify for the minimum funding criteria by investors and financiers. This challenge means that MSMEs have continued to struggle with inadequate access to finance, causing most of them to die within the first few years of their inception.

“I went out there to look for funds to jump-start the growth of my business, but I could not convince any investor or financier because, as I realize later, my business was not viable for funding at the moment." says Lyimmo Magani.

While browsing online for potential solutions to his business ailment, Lyimmo learned about Invest in Africa's (IIA) investor readiness program. He knew his turning point had come and enrolled in the program. According to Lyimmo, the program enabled him to understand how he could bring order to his business to make it attractive to external stakeholders.  

He says that "Through the IIA investor readiness program, I learned how I could effectively govern and manage my business, and the importance of rolling out structures like audited accounts, and financial projections”. He adds that the program enabled him to understand the business structures and processes gaps that needed attention for his company to be viable for external funding.  

IIA is a not-for-profit organization focused on empowering MSMEs to grow and scale by improving their access to skills, finance, and markets. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, IIA designed a business resilience initiative that included an MSME investor readiness program. The 8-month training and finance facilitation program was aimed at supporting MSMEs to comply with the requisite business frameworks to access growth finance from investors and financial institutions.

Three months after graduating from the program, Lyimmo Magani is pleased with the immense impact this has had on his business. Through the program, he developed a professional funding pitch deck that has kicked off promising funding conversations. Lyimmo has completed audited accounts for his business, predicting his revenue and profit margins. He has further developed a financing model which has enabled him to identify financial gaps and mitigation actions for his business.

By applying business governance lessons learned in the program, Lyimmo restructured his business model, necessitating him to employ more staff to fill the gaps he found. He says that the business has clear structures that can enable them to achieve growth milestones. “Right now, we can pitch correctly for funding, and I am confident that we will expand to manufacturing more than ten different products before the end of this year. I also believe that we will improve our market share to more than 10% in the Kenyan Market within two years,” adds Lyimmo.

IIA acknowledges the immense contribution of MSMEs to job creation and the economy. As such, the organization is keen to enhance the capacity of MSMEs to actively partake in trade by positioning them for market and finance opportunities. IIA has continued to implement initiatives, such as the investor readiness program, that align with its mission of empowering enterprises to create sustainable jobs.

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The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. In the case of Nicodem Mayison, Director and Founder of Palma Group Limited, he decided not to give up on his business which had been disrupted by war.

Since 2010 Palma Group Limited, a supply, and logistics firm, had been operating mainly in South Sudan, though registered in Kenya as well. Business was good until conflict broke out in 2016, causing the entrepreneur to lose about $ 1.2 million worth of equipment and ongoing contracts, leading to a shutdown.

While waiting for the conflict to be resolved, Nick launched Palma Organic Farm, a subsidiary of Palma Group Limited, resident in Kenya, focusing on climate action by neutralizing carbon emission through activities that help absorb carbon from the atmosphere. 

In 2018, they launched the business in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), venturing into the carbon markets.

While outsourcing financial solutions and partners for his business, Nick came across Invest in Africa’s (IIA) Investor Readiness Program on social media. He seized the opportunity to help his business recover from the loss sustained as a result of the war.

According to Nick, the program was necessary for his business as it was challenging to get investors due to a lack of a financial and an accounting regime, which led to poor records keeping. Nick needed to acquire knowledge to put in place a proper documentation structure and streamline the operations to attract investors.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, about 22 percent of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) do not keep any formal records of their operations. This poses a major strain in attracting potential investors, adding to these businesses' access to finance gap.  

“The program helped us in developing proper records of our financials models. We also created an accounting routine and developed policies and a human resource management structure,’’ said Nick. 

He added that Palma Organic Farm is in the best place to implement sizeable projects while ensuring better documentation. He confirms that the organization is now investor-ready and has continued to fast-track proper policy implementation. We believe that in the near future, we will be sustainable because investors can now have confidence in investing in our venture.

As an entrepreneur, Nick realizes the importance of streamlining the business operations to ensure that most of the requirements of investment criteria are in place. He learned how to revamp company pitching materials, which improved their marketing, and clients are already appreciating.

“Our business capacity has improved thanks to the structures we have put in place. By recognizing the need to capture information about the business and the market, we learned how to collate, process, and use information. We have been keen to track our business activities and use the collected information to plan and predict the future. In addition, this provides the investors with much-needed information to make an investment decision,” iterated Nick.

Nick developed a bespoke business plan through the initiative, which was implemented professionally within the program. He also developed business models per sector and designed a financial plan per program to serve the wide area of operation the organization is in.

As a result of the capacity, we have enlisted from IIA’s Investor Readiness Program, we plan to fully establish the organization in Kenya and supervise the other offices in South Sudan and DRC from here.

Nick’s advice to other entrepreneurs is that ‘information is power’. He advises them to be accountable for all operations and be keen to keep the necessary records. This, in turn, will help plan and predict the future and present an investor-ready business.

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With more than 15 years of experience in the Marketing Industry and being the best at her job, it seemed like a good time to switch gears. Margaret Kositany was ready to start her own marketing agency. In 2016 she launched New Heights Consultants Ltd, a modern digital marketing agency that helps small business brands grow. Little did she know that transitioning from the corporate world to entrepreneurship was a different ballgame.

Moving from formal employment to running her own business, thinking about employees and where to get business was an uphill battle, especially in a cut-throat industry like Digital Marketing. She needed guidance on how to corner the market.

In 2020, she discovered Invest in Africa (IIA) through social media and registered for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Recovery and Resilience Program, an initiative launched by IIA in partnership with Mastercard Foundation, that fronted the survival and the building back better of SMEs at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

IIA, in collaboration with industry experts, delivered personalized business development programs through; Virtual Masterclasses, Business Coaching, peer-to-peer mentorship, and an investor readiness program.

Margaret was paired with a certified business coach who offered fresh ideas on growing and better positioning the business.

The pandemic saw the digital marketing industry becoming more competitive with the accelerated adoption of digital technologies in various economic sectors in the Kenyan market. In addition, digitization has become an integral part of product and service delivery, and it is a key driver of the growth of trade in the country and the continent.

“I learnt I need to stand out, step out and sell the business by having an online presence. I need to network and be seen and heard in industry related conversations and webinars,” Margaret shared in the interview.

Another key lesson she got on staying ahead of the pack was the importance of redefining her target segment by narrowing down on the specific SMEs the business could focus on and settling with the low-end group of SMEs who are often overlooked.

The coaching, according to Margaret, helped bring in more clients, thus more revenue, and positioned the business in a sustainable growth trajectory. Adopting the lessons and revamping the company profile gave her confidence to share her work and source for clients actively.

In the future, she is looking to expand the business by having more clients and more in-house consultants who will work together with her in bringing more business.

Working with a business coach was eye-opening for Margaret. She advises other entrepreneurs to register for business coaching as the certified coach being neutral to the business can see into your business from a different angle. With an understanding of the industry, a coach can provide suggestions on how to grow your business.

The SME Recovery and Resilience program by IIA is still ongoing with diversification to incorporate additional partners and collaborators, which is focused on producing more impact to SMEs by enhancing their access to finance, skills training opportunities, and new markets. 

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Invest in Africa in partnership with the Business Scouts for Development Programme (BSFD) have  launched a market linkage program for manufacturing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in natural food clusters.BSFD is a programme commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

The program will drive capacity building to upscale SMEs and enhance competitive access to market opportunities.Currenty, the East Africa Community (EAC) market is gaining increasing importance for value-add agricultural products made in Eastern Africa. In addition, there is also an increasing openness in the community to buying “products made in EAC. This  initiative ,therefore, targets manufacturing SMEs in Kenya and Uganda in natural food clusters focusing on Avocado, Shea Butter, Coconut, and Moringa. 

This translates into a high potential for medium-sized agro-processors and the need to augment their capacity to take up the available opportunities. Through successful linkage to buyers seeking to source locally, this initiative by IIA and the BSFD programme will jumpstart an accelerated growth of the target SMEs. Prior capacity building will guarantee the sustainability of these SMEs in accessing and delivering to available opportunities in the longer term. 

Under this initiative, we will leverage IIA’s flagship business membership platform Biashara.Now  to enable market linkage by allowing the SMEs to use the digital traceability tools on the platform to make sure buyers can trace and understand their products, which will enhance efficient engagement and transaction.  

Other capabilities which will be delivered under the capacity building component include good manufacturing practices and new product development. This will ensure that the SMEs can meet the required market standards and efficiently undertake demand-driven introduction of new products. Importantly , the initiative is in line with IIA’s goal of linking SMEs with $100M worth of contracts and creating up to one million jobs by 2025. It has come in handy to ensure collaborative efforts in supporting SMEs to competitively access industries and adequately contribute to value chain development. This, in turn, translates to job opportunities generated through the resultant enterprise growth.   

“Through this initiative, we hope to create an economy that thrives for everyone. This aligns with our purpose of prospering the African economy through sustainable development: where we all participate in trade as entrepreneurs, employees, and consumers, driving economic growth through entrepreneurship and business linkages”, said Terry Kinyua, the COO and acting Country Manager at IIA-Kenya during the project kick-off with beneficiary SMEs.    

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“Coaching is essential for any business at any stage whether you are struggling, growing, or plateaued; it is something I would recommend to all entrepreneurs,” Kefa Nyakundi gladly reiterates.

In 2017 Kefa’s brainchild, Centerprise Holdings Ltd (CHL), which consisted of 3 companies, Centerprise Africa Limited (CAL), Africa Risk Institute (ARI), and Mtaji Technologies, suffered a market downturn because of the prolonged general elections. This led to most of the company's shareholders jumping ship as the business was almost going under. Consequently, as the managing director and vision carrier, this was a call to restructure the company to adjust to the changing business terrain.

Hardly had the business picked up when Covid-19 hit in 2020. This blow came on the back of an already depressed business, which led to a difficult decision to close their office and operate virtually, lay off the staff, and convert them to contractors to ensure business survival. 

These systemic disruptions caused ripples at Centerprise Holdings, creating the need to find new ways to adapt to the constantly changing market conditions to stay afloat.

While Kefa was struggling to spruce up his business and implement a merger strategy, Invest in Africa (IIA) launched a Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Recovery and Resilience program that he quickly signed up for, hoping to improve his business operations.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Invest in Africa partnered with Mastercard Foundation to champion the survival and resilience of SMEs. This is under an initiative dubbed SMEs Recovery and Resilience. In collaboration with industry experts, IIA delivers bespoke enterprise development programs to SMEs through; Business Coaching, Virtual Masterclasses, peer-to-peer mentorship, and an investor readiness program.

Working with a certified business coach assigned to him was an enlightening experience as the coach doubled up as an accountability partner in presenting his deliverables.

“The coaching gave me so much clarity. It gave me focus, and I got the confidence to progress with the initiatives I was doing,” Kefa said in an interview.

Consequently, the coaching helped redesign and reorganize the business operations, reducing cost and creating a nimble business that could operate under the new normal. 

Adopting the lean operating module developed through coaching and delivering their services using online tools scaled up their business, building it back better. Centerprise Holdings restarted the Mtaji project, an access to capital tech platform for SMEs, using the savings made and hope to launch the platform this quarter.

According to Kefa, the coaching worked as an impetus to growth and positioned the business in a sustainability trajectory. The two companies, Mtaji Technologies and Africa Risk Management Advisors (ARMA), now smarten up, offering one seamless bouquet product consisting of a digital financial marketplace and professional services firm.

In the next three years, he sees his business being at the heart of facilitating Intra- Africa Trade and taking advantage of the African Free Continental Trade Area opportunities to facilitate trade between and among African states.

With the digitization of their services, they will be able to operate across the continent with representative offices across Africa, with Nairobi being their headquarters. 

The SME recovery and resilience program by IIA is still ongoing with diversification to incorporate additional partners and collaborators. This is geared towards delivering more impact to SMEs by enhancing their access to skills development opportunities, finance linkages, and new market streams.

Under this drive, IIA partnered with Unilever to champion inclusive sourcing by incorporating women, youth, persons with disabilities, and marginalized groups SMEs via Biashara.Now platform.

IIA also recently partnered with GIZ Business Scouts for Development Program to enhance the capacity of manufacturing SMEs in natural food clusters to drive sustainable supply chains, quality production, and food safety.

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More than most things, avocados symbolise middle-class millennials in the global north. Their journey from seedling to fruit, and a trip thousands of kilometres away represents opportunities further afield, in the developing world.

Great Global Traders, a Kenya-based start-up is an emerging member of this multi-billion dollar industry, established to empower marginalised members of the community. Focused on uplifting women and youth, Rosemary Muita’s business employs 800 professionally trained smallholder farmers across four counties, with expansion in her sights.

Entirely locally owned and operated, armed with an export licence for high-quality domestic produce, and with agri-processing opportunities, Rosemary’s business and vision show us what an AfCFTA-enabled future could look like.

Even when she first started with a handful of female farmers in a co-operative, she dreamed big, “If you think small, you stay small,” she explained. By training them in agricultural best practices and advocating organic growing methods, her network expanded.

This helped her envisage a future plans, prioritising export of avocados, developing a nuclear farm and having her own processing plant. By appointing a commercial coach, Invest in Africa helped her distil this into a decade-long plan, introduce digital marketing tools and formalise her business, developing a structure and hierarchy, allowing her to expand methodically.

Breaking cultural barriers preventing women from attaining financial independence remains central to her plans.

Rosemary has experienced this first-hand herself. Not having assets to collateralise loans, banks turn her away. “In Kenya women are not granted land rights, and the like, making it almost impossible to get funding. I have enquired with local banks but also some abroad and always the same story,” she lamented.

Such impediments lower the threshold of professional accomplishment and deter ambition 

for many women. Invest In Africa’s commitment to building inclusive economies is to break precisely these kinds of barriers. Rosemary is determined not to fall victim to this despite opportunities for growth being affected as a result.

Just as Great Global Traders were preparing to export into America, Europe and the Middle East, the pandemic struck, interrupting an important growth phase and crucial revenue streams. Unable to pay the farmers, and searching for revenue, Rosemary is powering on.

Learn more about Great Global Traders here: https://www.greatglobal.co.ke/ 

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Kenya’s economy is largely driven by Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and an informal sector that accounts for over 80% per cent of the total workforce. SMEs employ about 85% of Kenyan labour force which is close to 7.5 million aggregate employment (Gure & Karugu, 2018).  MSMEs utilize locally accessible resources, foster innovation, employ technology, assemble small-dispersed private savings, and foster entrepreneurship development. They are key to not only driving industrialization as envisaged in Vision 2030 but are also crucial in achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) geared towards improved, equitable and sustained human development.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on MSMEs has been immediately very detrimental and will continue to reverberate over a long recovery phase.   Multiple factors ranging from direct and indirect human health outcomes, disruption on supply chains, massive lay offs, decreased air freight services and limited outbound air freights continue to be felt as the country braces for the fourth wave of the predominant Delta variant. In the service industry, the drop in customers means no cash coming in to offset expenses and therefore a looming shut down and lay off of thousands of businesses and their employees will have ripple effects on clients, vendors, tertiary businesses, and the overall national economy. Service providers such as restaurants have been closed or switched to only take-away services, which has had direct and notable loss of income to the agricultural and transportation sector as well. In some parts of the country, gyms, daycare centers, hair salons and spas, retailers etc. have also shut down or operated on quarantine sensitive timeframes and social distancing in compliance to Ministry of Health recommendations.  The COVID-19 pandemic while often referred to as an unprecedented crisis has been a low probability high impact predicted event among scientists including infectious disease investigators. The pandemic has tested national level response capacity and will demand a robust recovery strategy that is cognizant and responsive to capacity to build back better in the face of disasters.  

As the cost in estimate the loss of lives and livelihoods continues to mount, it is very clear that the pandemic will affect the MSME ecosystem in an unprecedented way. At a macro level, The World Bank, cut Kenya’s 2021 economic growth projections to 4.5% compared to the previous projection of 6.8% growth which was to be the fastest in Africa, due to the impacts of COVID-19. This points to the need for MSME ecosystem stakeholders to act with a sense of urgency in protecting MSMEs from further impact, as well as buffer them from ongoing and future disasters which will have compounding shocks on the system. Historically, consideration of disaster impacts on MSMEs has not been prioritized as a business survival and continuity imperative. The approach to risk and disaster management has been reactive, short term and extrinsic to MSME sustainability and growth.  A systematic approach that is comprehensive in considering and investing in risk and disaster management as a strategic, proactive imperative has been underscored during COVID—19.

The role of government as we contend with the complex issues and uncertainty in an already fragile business environment, supporting MSMEs to build back better will be key not only due to the COVID-19 pandemic but in how they address emerging and existing risks and disasters including cyber security and climate change generated disasters.  It is incumbent on the government and all its partners to lay focus and take action through sustainable risk resilience measures to minimize the impacts on lives and livelihoods.

An opportunity to integrate a risk and disaster management approach as an integral component of MSME development and sustainability model exists and should be leveraged.  This approach through a development lens requires the collective engagement of public and private sector, development actors, academia, and the public in general as a collective taking into consideration risk and disaster management.

As Kenya grapples with the ongoing pandemic demands, specific sectors can be leveraged during the response and recovery phase to establish a foundation for MSME resilience.  Kenya should leverage on its ICT capacity to make use of early warning systems and fully integrate risk modelling in its economic planning. Factoring risk and disaster impacts into decision making processes and cost benefit analysis stands to offer the MSME ecosystem a tangible motivation for investing in preparedness and mitigation processes and infrastructure.  The use of science and technology to guide development discussions and strategies will bring on board the much-needed real time data, allowing for detailed and realistic implementation plans. Further, engaging with the science and technology community will foster a culture of solid vulnerability assessments, as well as evaluation and monitoring mechanisms which are an imperative for sustainable MSME development initiatives.

The role of government and disaster governance cannot be underestimated.  A quintessential role of government is in protecting its citizens and institutions especially when their resource is depleted or overwhelmed.  In May 2020, the government of Kenya unveiled Ksh 53.7 billion economic stimulus package that included a Ksh 3 billion initial seed capital for the credit guarantee scheme to boost MSMEs. This commendable investment effort by the government of Kenya appeals for strengthened implementation plans and accountability frameworks. Accountability frameworks will also increase risk literacy, improve risk visibility, and educate MSMEs to shift the disaster management focus from response to a more comprehensive approach inclusive of recovery mitigation, risk reduction and prevention, to minimize the impacts of disasters for those that cannot be eliminated entirely.  

Addressing MSME resilience calls for an all-of-society engagement. Invest In Africa (IIA) – Kenya is an organization established in 2016 in Kenya with the objective to grow African MSMEs by improving their access to skills, markets, and finance with the goal of transforming their competitiveness, creating opportunities and jobs which in turn enhance human development.  Based on IIAs engagement in Kenya, participant expectations and data gathered in the ongoing pandemic, the opportunities and challenges of establishing and accelerating SME resilience were operationalized in October 2020.  Through a multi-stakeholder approach, (termed the Dialogue Series), IIA brought together 7 partners from the government, private sector, SME eco-system, academia, development actors and multilateral organizations, with a vision of building and enhancing capacity to risk and disaster management frameworks. Specifically, the three-part dialogue series and an ask the expert virtual session addressed pertinent topics and queries on advocating for investment in disaster risk and disaster cycle management and build back better strategies. 229 participants attended this series which was developed and anchored on needs as determined by IIA and its partners. Participants were notably interested in testimonials by local SMEs who through innovation have re-structured their approaches as a business continuity and survival imperative. The dialogue series initiative has paved way to the formulation of an MSME Risk Resilience Framework, geared towards operationalizing recommendations from the dialogue series with a roll-out envisaged in 2022.

As the MSMEs pursue resilience building strategies, IIA commits to applying and holding the process as a priority.  IIA is engaging with partners in developing policy, practices and training that will facilitate a multi-pronged approach, offer accountability and sustainability to ensuring that MSMEs have access to requisite tools towards minimizing disaster impacts. Indeed, a strategic and coordinated approach to MSME resilience building will prevent the duplication of the already scarce financial and human resources. Further, this approach will contribute to a focused implementation plan.

Finally, the important role of MSMEs in Kenya cannot be overstated. This is a clarion call to all MSMEs and partners to shift the mind-set of a siloed approach and seek for a more cohesive and integrated approach to resilience building.



Wangechi Muriuki – Impact Area Lead, Africa Networks at Creative Metier; Former Country Manager, Invest in Africa (IIA) - Kenya.

Ms. Muthoni Njogu – Social Entrepreneur and Lead, Mweiga Youth Empowerment Group.

Dr. Njoki Mwarumba - Faculty – Disaster Cycle Management, Strathmore University Business School; Assistant Professor of Emergency Management and Disaster Preparedness, University of Nebraska, Omaha.

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The turmoil in northern Mozambique has thrown a spotlight on the sustainability and ESG efforts of international oil companies (IOCs) in Africa. Historically they have not had the most constructive relationships with governments and native communities.

Often the emphasis on developing or integrating local companies and people into the supply chains or operations of these large extractive projects can be wrapped up in temporary CSR missions and not built into the longer-term frameworks of national development agendas or company vision statements.

In doing so, this improves the understanding of their operating environments, lowering their costs of procurement and building capacity and capabilities of enterprises and individuals. And crucially, this improves the economic prospects of the host country, reinvesting in human capital and improving the social economy.

Increasingly this is being implemented as the industry takes on more responsibility and some of these concerns are addressed by local content regulation – which aims to increase opportunities of local businesses in these value chains. However, this is only the starting point.

Before projects are established, it is essential that IOCs and the public sector establish clear metrics, promoting participation of locals, to monitor and evaluate against over the project duration.

This is where the guidance of experienced partners like Invest in Africa, who have cut their teeth in these industries, have a clear vision of what local sustainability means and how best to implement considered ESG strategies.

Read more of Invest in Africa Director William Pollen’s thoughts in his thought leadership piece for Environmental Finance here: https://www.environmental-finance.com/content/analysis/big-oil-needs-big-change-to-its-sustainability-approach-in-africa.html   


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The prospect of graduating for many young students should create excitement and anxiety, in equal measure, for what the future holds. In Kenya those scales tip more towards trepidation. There seems to be more certainty to what life after university has in store, and sadly, unemployment is increasingly common for young graduates.

Invest In Africa’s Kenya team, spearheaded by IT Lead, David Ajowi, embarked on a mission to enhance opportunities for Kenya’s youth. With 65% of the young people out of work, they developed the IIA Technology Innovation Internship Program – that starts with a hackathon.

The program seeks to identify talent and enable young graduates and university students to harness their talent through the industry linkages and provide a platform from which they can gain experience through job exposure and become drivers of change.

During the hackathon applicants were invited to develop ideas and solutions to digitise processes within small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to make them more efficient, saving on resources and improving customer experience.

The idea was designed to simultaneously address two major economic constraints – youth unemployment and survival of SMEs, severely affected by the pandemic. Submissions from the hackathon would contribute to the sustainability of these businesses while leveraging the underutilised digital expertise of the nation’s youth.

“Submissions to the hackathon included a range of innovative, creative and unique solutions to multiple business challenges faced by SMEs across the country. The hackathon judges were very impressed and encouraged to see the capabilities of participants,” said David Ajowi.

After an in-depth judging process, the overall winner of the hackathon was announced: Gloria Simiyu won with her idea that addressed a serious societal challenge with a simple tech-led business solution. As the hospitality industry witnessed a considerable downturn in client numbers during the pandemic, they were left with excesses of leftover food.

The business expense combined with the opportunity cost of the wasted food inspired Gloria to share help the less fortunate in society. Some of the food was distributed through collaborations with charities and some sold to those unable to purchase in person through a mobile application.

“I am ecstatic to have won this hackathon and grateful for the opportunity to showcase my project,” explained Gloria, who is well attuned to the lack of opportunities for Kenya’s young techies. That is why she believes tremendous tech talent remains ‘undiscovered’ across the country.

She will work with the IIA team to further develop her idea and believes with their guidance it will be a success. Gloria will also be able to lean on newly acquired knowledge from the complementary web development course she was gifted as winner of the hackathon.

In second place, Samson Muchai and his colleagues developed Cleansafi, an Android application designed to expose laundromats in Nairobi to a wider market, boosting their revenue streams and enabling growth; benefitting their clients with improved service and their suppliers with larger orders.

The brilliance and range of ideas presented exhibits the plethora of tech talent in the country and we are determined it has a platform to shine. Look out on our channels for the next hackathon!

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