Business lobby sheds its warring past as new office led by Ngatia takes office

Newly elected Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Richard Ngatia is sworn in by lawyer Kihara Njuguna at Bomas of Kenya. [George Orido/Standard]
The new President of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Richard Ngatia has formally assumed office, pledging to help create one million small businesses.

Mr Ngatia took over from outgoing chairman, Kiprono Kittony on Saturday.

During the swearing-in, Ngatia promised a more vibrant chamber that promotes an enabling environment to do business.

Small businesses

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“Let me reiterate, we cannot just create five million jobs, we should aim to create one million small businesses and the five million jobs will follow,” he said.

The new team will serve a three-year term.

And Ngatia seems to have hit the ground running.

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His push to have the Government immediately pay suppliers got a boost from no less than President Uhuru Kenyatta, who in his Madaraka Day speech, directed that all traders who have supplied goods and services to the State be paid.

During the handing over, Ngatia spoke of a five-point partnership plan, including working with Equity Bank to roll out financing without collateral for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)  and Small Enterprises in partnership with KNCCI.

He announced that the chamber recently made a submission to Treasury for direct support and submitted to the Government proposed solutions on the advancement of the SMEs.

Offer training

At the same time, the Kenya School of Government has committed to offer training to all chamber leaders including those heading county chapters.

According to Ngatia, the chapter is keen to bring onboard more partners.

“We are in discussion with British Council on their impact investing programme and other development partners who have committed to fund capacity building programmes, sustainability and corporate governance training,” said Ngatia.

In addition, he has proposed the establishment of special zones for SMEs across the country.

The chamber seems to have put its tumultuous past behind it.

In his handing-over speech, Mr Kittony, spoke of the sorry state of affairs he found at the lobby.

He said when he joined KNCCI in 2011 he found a decaying office and there were no funds to run its affairs.

“When I arrived at the office, it was an eyesore. I could not stand the deterioration and could not even take tea there in the first three months until we did some sprucing up,” he told delegates at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.

Collecting levies

He said the Government had even barred the chamber from collecting levies due to incessant wrangles that beleaguered it.

He advised his successor to start by reclaiming title deeds of the chamber’s properties across the country.

For decades the chamber had suffered leadership feuds that resulted in back-and-forth court cases with different factions trying to control it.

A change of its articles of association in 1998 that allowed the then management committee to instruct the chief executive officer on day-to-day running of the chamber did not help matters.

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Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and IndustryKNCCIRichard Ngatia