NEWS

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.

 


By:

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.

Read more

London and Accra, 5 July 2021: Invest In Africa (IIA), an enterprise focused on growing local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Sub-Saharan Africa to deliver positive economic impacts and create jobs, has partnered with Vodafone Ghana to support local businesses by enhancing their digital capabilities. The partnership will provide local SMEs with tailor-made digital solutions to enable them to adapt to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, continue interacting with customers online and grow their businesses.

 

Some of the customised ICT solutions to be provided by IIA and Vodafone to SMEs in Ghana include: Red Trader – a simple web and mobile application designed for traders to manage their inventory, track and receive payments; and Your-Business-Online – a proposition designed for SMEs to increase their market reach via tailored digital marketing offerings such as website design, e-commerce integration and social media marketing, among others. These and other specialised solutions will fuel local innovation, support digital financial inclusion and stimulate business and economic growth.  

 

Established in 2012, IIA operates locally in five countries across the continent (Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Zambia, and Mauritania), supporting SMEs through providing training and enhancing access to finance, as well as supporting job creation and local economies. The initiative will be rolled out in Ghana from 1st April for an initial period of two years and will be available to interested local SMEs regardless of size or sector.

 

Carol Annang, IIA’s Ghana Country Director commented on the news, “This partnership represents the coming together of two leading organisations both committed to Africa’s long term sustainable growth. Our purpose at IIA is to act as catalysts for SME growth and competitiveness, and a key part of this is uniting large corporations who want to use their local buying power as a force for good with local African businesses, with a view to attracting investment, creating jobs, building capacity and diversifying the economies in which we operate.”

IIA’s CEO, William Pollen also asserted, “As Africa faces its first recession in more than 25 years and the pandemic accelerating job disruption, it is more important than ever to support SMEs, which account for an estimated 80% of economic activity and act as the primary employer in sub-Saharan Africa. The digital acceleration we are seeing due to Covid-19 is an opportunity for businesses to adapt, learn new skills and thrive in the new digital economy. This is the key objective of our partnership with Vodafone in Ghana, and we hope to be able to extend this initiative to support SMEs across sub-Saharan Africa in the near future.”

Also remarking on the IIA-Vodafone partnership, Tawa Bolarin, Director of Vodafone Business said, “The partnership between Vodafone Business and IIA is a big win for local businesses because both institutions share a joint commitment to transforming businesses via innovative digital solutions. We have a deep-seated passion to see local businesses succeed and now more than ever; in a business landscape impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative for home-grown businesses, and particularly SMEs to be able to operate seamlessly and efficiently using cutting-edge digital solutions to propel market reach, profitability and business growth. These are indeed exciting times for us and the entrepreneurial community in Ghana.”

Read more

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   

 

Read more

Nouakchott, 17 June 2021 | Banque Mauritanienne pour le Commerce International (BMCI), a leading local lender committed to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the Mauritania division of Invest in Africa (IIA), a non-profit initiative focused on growing local businesses in Africa, have signed a partnership agreement to extend access to finance to SMEs in Mauritania working closely with the extractives industry.

The partnership, which marks the first agreement between IIA Mauritania and a domestic lender, aims to accelerate participation of local SMEs in the oil and gas supply chain. IIA can leverage existing experience from work with British Petroleum (BP) in Grand Tortue Ahmehim (GTA), spanning Senegal and Mauritania. The agreement makes BMCI IIA’s fourth banking partner in the GTA project, with three other partners in Senegal.

Improved access to finance will address a range of commercial constraints they currently face. This involves limited availability of cheap capital and difficulties in accessing domestic and international lending markets. The partnership will also ensure SMEs receive funding advice and training.

Commenting on the partnership agreement, BMCI CEO, Moulay Abbas, expressed his delight at working with IIA, “BMCI’s team is looking forward to a successful partnership with IIA and are happy to provide our services to promote the development of African businesses.”

IIA Mauritania country Director Bocar-Alpha Ba noted, “This is a crucial period of economic development for Mauritania and SMEs need to be afforded opportunities to grow. In partnering with BMCI, whose commitment to SME development aligns with ours, we are optimistic about the future for local businesses to sustain and thrive.”

This comes as the Mauritanian government has pledged its commitment to the sustainable development of the country’s extractives industry, notably through supporting Mauritanian enterprises to become active suppliers to international oil companies. IIA is preparing local SMEs to maximise upcoming opportunities, pledging a series of webinars and workshops on improving access to skills, markets and finance, complementing strong local commitment of public and private bodies.

Read more

Congratulations to the graduating cohort of the 6th Certified Productivity coaching programme! The 15 graduates, sponsored by Invest in Africa (IIA), were recognised for the achievements, obtaining the status of International Coaching Federation (ICF) accredited coaches, during an online ceremony on Tuesday, 18th May.

The ceremony convened high level guests, including representatives from the African Development Bank as well as Ecobank. They applauded the accomplishments of this year’s graduating class, as did some of their predecessors, including Chief Operating Officer of Invest in Africa’s Kenya chapter, Terry Kinyua. She encouraged the graduates to make the most of their new titles and learnings to the benefit of thousands across the continent. 

The programme, delivered by The Coaching Hub, is designed to provide the necessary tools to offer professional coaching services to help clients optimise organisational productivity and effectiveness, while giving individuals, teams and organizations the focus and motivation required to achieve tangible results. This is especially important as businesses are severely stretched for resources and navigate the turbulent commercial landscape created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 15 certified coaches, five of whom are Invest in Africa staff, will use their knew found knowledge and coaching techniques to enhance SME resilience in this distressed business environment, and beyond. The Certified Productivity Coach programme is designed to deliver tangible results, irrespective of organisation size and sector.

In response to the challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Invest in Africa launched the Recovery and Resilience Programme, with the support of the Mastercard Foundation. Amongst the primary interventions was SME coaching but with few ICF certified coaches in Ghana, Senegal, and Mauritania, IIA sponsored 15 coaches, including Mauritania’s only ICF accredited coach, Bocar Alpha Ba, IIA’s Mauritania country director.

William Pollen, IIA Director, explained during the ceremony that, “IIA will be rolling out a coaching support programme to better provide wider opportunity for creating awareness and increasing the productivity of the businesses we support.

“IIA aims to create a network of coaches, especially in Ghana and Senegal to maximise access to small and medium enterprises amid the pandemic to become resilient and build back better.”

The impact of effective coaching has been evident to beneficiaries of IIA’s Recovery and Resilience programme, two of whom received expert advice from certified coached and managed to transform their businesses. One of the recipients, on the brink of shutting up shop, turned his enterprise around, attracted investment and expanded operations.

The commitment from the graduating cohort to helping SMEs reverse their fortunes and maintain strong growth trajectories was tangible and encouraging, emphasising the importance of solidarity during and beyond this unprecedented period. According to class president Kalyan Emandi the energising coaching sessions always ‘evoked something positive’ in themselves.

The feeling of togetherness and was married with the importance of acknowledging individuality and the distinctions in culture across our diverse continent, by keynote speaker Winnie Nzamu. Winnie, who left her lucrative career in banking to take up coaching reiterated that “coaching is an honour and responsibility.”

Congratulations again to the certified Productivity Coaches!

 

Ghana

Angelina Diyuoh Minski

Agnes Allotey

Osei Kwaku Agyekum

Peter Anuum

Charlotte Asiedu

Ekow Mensah

Dr. Esi Ansah

 

Senegal

Ibrahima Talla

Ibrahima Fall

Papa Ngor Bob

DIOP Birama Laba

Fatima Simone

Kalyan Emandi

 

Mauritania

Bocar Alpha BA

Read more

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!

Read more

Do we have a skewed view of what sustainability means in Africa? A one dimensional approach hinders development and economic prospects. Here is Episode 4 of Gaia Says No – Africa, hosted by future Net Zero, to answer those questions.

Joining IIA's Director, William Pollen are Kondjeni Ntinda from the Namibia Energy and Invest in Africa's own Charlotte Asiedu, with future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose directing the conversation.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

Read more

Picking apart Africa’s energy transition, the progress needed to be made, numerous decisions to consider and the need for supportive policy to accelerate efforts – here is Episode 3 of Gaia Says No – Africa, hosted by future Net Zero.

Joining IIA's Director, William Pollen are Dr Amy Jadesimi, Managing Director of LADOL Free Zone in Lagos, Stanley Nyoni, Sustainability and Leadership Advisor, with future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose directing the conversation.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

Read more

Delving further into Africa's journey to achieving sustainable business practices and Net Zero, the podcast assesses the range of challenges the continent faces and how innovative business solutions and robust policy can overcome them.

Joining IIA's Director, William Pollen are Reshma Shah, CEO of Intestrat and Partner at Kina Advisory Ltd and Stanley Nyoni, Sustainability and Leadership Advisor, with future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose directing the conversation.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

Read more

What role can Africa play in the road to Net Zero? What does sustainability mean to African businesses? Find out the answers to these questions and more in our new podcast series with future Net Zero: Gaia Says No – Africa.

Episode one features IIA’s Director William Pollen and special guests Rosalind Kainyah, Managing Director of Kina Advisory and Reshma Shah, CEO of Intestrat and Partner at Kina Advisory Ltd, hosted by future Net Zero’s founder, Sumit Bose.

Listen here and please feel free to share among your networks to keep the conversation going!

Read more