SMEs challenged to target exports for sustainable business growth

President William Ruto visited the stand of Beecare apiaries International Limited at Serena Hotel.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been challenged to ride on improved productivity to expand into overseas markets.

SMEs receiving training through a collaboration between Kenya Institute of Business Training (KIBT) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) were urged to use the training to acquire competitive advantage and set eyes on the export markets.

"The project focuses on training and on-site consultancies in the areas of quality and productivity improvement, marketing and sales as well as on financial management," said Jica Kenya Chief Representative Hajime Iwama during a seminar in Nairobi this week.

The project aims to promote sustainable growth of SMEs in Kenya against a backdrop of many small businesses dying within three years of launch.

A survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed 2.2 million micro and small businesses shut down in the five years to 2016.

This means about 440,000 MSMEs closing yearly, a number that the Jica training seeks to cut by equipping small firms with new skills to run sustainably.

"SMEs have to become more competitive and productive at their home base to enable them integrate into global value chains through trade and investments, including linkages with foreign direct investments," Iwama said.

"Building on this foundation, this project has expanded to include the export-oriented manufacturing sector."

The project, which was signed in 2019, targets enterprises within Nairobi and its environs, Eldoret and Mombasa.

The term of co-operation runs from January 25, 2021 to February 28, 2025.

Among other deliverables, the project enhances the ability of small enterprises to access financing by equipping them with knowledge such as preparing financial documents for loan screening.

SMEs are also put in an ecosystem for interacting and collaborating with trade and financial institutions.

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