KNCCI keen to influence economy

Delegates from Kisii County Chapter present a stone curving to the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) President-elect Richard Ngatia when he launched is manifesto at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC). [George Orido, Standard]
Kiprono Kittony will today hand over the leadership of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) to Richard Ngatia, who won the president’s seat unopposed.

Several other national positions of the trade lobby will however be competitively filled today, including those of two deputy presidents and directors who will be voted for by over 500 delegates.

Already, the first round of elections to find the leadership in the counties is complete where the delegates who will be attending today’s Annual General Meeting were identified.

Mr Ngatia, the president-elect following the amendment of the KNCCI Constitution to replace the chairman with president, spoke to The Standard about his plans upon assuming office.

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He also spoke about the contest that ended with the stepping down of his opponents for the presidency midway through the hugely expensive countrywide campaigns.

Excerpts from the interview.

How has journey to the KNCCI presidency been?

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I started as a small trader and went through all challenges that any business out there goes through today. It is my belief to do good while doing business and helping businesses within my capacity to prosper. I am not just profit-driven, I joined KNCCI in 2013 as patron and later chairman of the Nairobi Chapter.

Having started and done business in this country exposed me to the challenges any entrepreneur starting business today would go through and this motivated me to participate in the democratic leadership of KNCCI as president to advocate and speak for the business community. I believe this is a right way of influencing growth of our economy and country.

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There have been dull days for the KNCCI after a very vibrant past, and in which space left after the chaos, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) came. Do you think Kepsa is a replication of KNCCI?

I would first like to state the space for business advocacy is vast and there is enough room for all of us to play an active role. During President Mwai Kibaki’s time, a vacuum was created in the private sector due to the wrangles of the chamber. There were too many bodies going directly to government to express their concerns and they needed one voice.

In 2003, the Minister for Planning saw a gap in representation of the business sector after KNCCI started grappling with leadership wrangles. At that point, he asked the private sector to form a body that would collate their issues and forward them to the government.

Kepsa is not a replication of KNCCI as it solely represents large corporates while KNCCI represents small traders across the counties.

The more the two bodies can complement each other, the better for the business community. The easier it is to speak with one voice and address issues affecting businesses to the government, the better for the business sector. Chambers of commerce are a leading voice of the business community across the world. KNCCI as a chamber of commerce has a global presence which is is felt in all the 47 counties.

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How differently would the KNCCI be run including new programmes which should ultimately reach the needs of the jua kali person?

First of all, note that at Nairobi Chapter, I invited the Jua Kali sector representative whom we co-opted as directors including the National Jua Kali Association. I will incorporate representation for women, youth and persons with disability from all the sectors.

Further, I will ensure KNCCI comes up with industrial parks in all its 47 chapters. These parks shall serve as centres of innovation, information exchange on market intelligence, exhibitions and inter-county trade fairs.

How would you rate the agency that you are inheriting considering the passion and resources that you have put in individually and through your friends, as you indicated in your interview on KTN’s Pointblank?

KNCCI is an invaluable body, it brings together commissioners of business. When you strengthen the chamber, you strengthen the nation. Mine is to participate in the attainment of that vision.

What are the weaknesses that you identified in the space of doing business that should be addressed quickly before you embark on the longer term initiatives?

Quick wins are reduction of non-tariff barriers that hamper intra-county and inter-regional trade for our members, strengthening of county chambers, capacity-building and mobilisation of finances and prompt distribution of COOs to counties.

Challenges include inability to adapt to rapid technological changes, inadequate managerial training for necessary skills, limited market access, competition from larger firms, delayed payments for suppliers and over-regulation of the business sector.

You arrived at a consensus with your opponents on all stepping down in your favour, how was this achieved in light of how competitive the campaigns seemed from the start?

In every corner of the country, I left a positive impression. Most importantly, this was achieved through dialogue and discussions on how we could bring together different ideas in our manifestos to forge a common agenda for the chamber, and while working together as a team for the good and benefit of the business community.

There was also need to have smooth transition, protect the image and reputation of the organisation and possibly win back donors who would help the chamber pursue and achieve its policy and advocacy agenda.

The manufacturing, food security, affordable housing and universal healthcare programmes of the national government are sectors that any aspiring business person should take keen interest in.

How would the KNCCI help unlock opportunities for the youth, women and people living with disability in reaching the 30 per cent government procurement opportunities, considering that their weaknesses lie in preparedness and finances?

Continue to lobby for government to fully enforce the 30 per cent local procurement regulation. Continue connections with financial institutions for affordable loans, removal of collateral, for MSMEs, lobby for establishment of a credit guarantee scheme, provide training and incubation for youth startups.

What is your view about the budgetary allocations, where do we need to put more resources than we currently have in order to achieve a double-digit growth as envisioned by the government?

Agriculture continues to provide approximately 55 per cent of total employment in the country. Agro-related industries need support. We need more market spaces, aggregation centres and value-addition at centres. Also, revitalise the health sector for a healthy nation, digitise healthcare.

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KNCCIKiprono KittonyRichard NgatiaKenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry