But he soldiered on, identifying five areas that needed immediate attention. They were: Lack of access to affordable credit to the jua kali sector, lack of proper working sites, lack of appropriate training in one’s area of expertise, absence of a ready market for finished goods and little exposure to the artisans and small traders.
Owing to its nature, not many financial institutions were willing to offer credit to SMEs, terming them unstable. Yet, this was an industry that was contributing almost 20 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product besides being the single biggest employer in the country at over 70 per cent.
“We have since formed a credit rating system to ensure that SMEs get loans from banks without the need for collateral,” he says.
The resilient Muteti approached several government organisations to explore ways of handling some of these challenges with encouraging results. These included Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute and Kenya Industrial Property Institute — institutions that have greatly helped in standardising jua kali products, making them locally competitive.
He also arranged to partner with relevant groups in other East African countries in order to expand the market for those in local SMEs.
As he says, there can be no better deal than to link small traders with others in the region. Being the project manager of the East Africa Community Jua Kali Exhibition, Muteti has made arrangements for local jua kali traders to visit each of the East African countries on an annual basis for a learning process.
“The jua kali industry has the potential to earn the country billions in foreign exchange if proper training and funding is channelled to the sector. You will be surprised to know that part of the president’s casual wear was made by a youth from Nairobi through a small loan from the Youth Enterprise Fund,” says Muteti, who also sits on the fund’s board.
Muteti says the youth in Kenya have been neglected for too long yet there is no way the country can achieve Vision 2030 if attention is not directed to this group. He says youths should be the ones to drive this agenda.
“It is not just enough to create a fund and dish it to the youths. They also need mentorship. We especially need to assist those who have already started small businesses such as carwash,” Muteti adds.
The youth enterprise fund, says Muteti, is not for idle youths, but for industrious ones who have a good business idea that has the potential to grow.
“Others have confused the funds with the Kazi Kwa Vijana initiative under the Prime Minister’s office,” he says.
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