Grassroots business fund targets over half a million small businesses

Grassroots Business Fund Global CEO Harold Rosen (centre) with Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Richard Ngatia (left) with other officials when the two met at Chamber offices in Nairobi. [Esther Dianah, Standard]

Over half a million small businesses are set to benefit from a funding of up to Sh10 million in the next five years to build resilience.

This is after Mastercard Foundation partnered with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCCI) and the Grassroots Business Fund (GBF).

The arrangement involves access to financial and non-financial products for micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Kenya and will see businesses receive between Sh10,000 and Sh10 million for resilience for consecutive five years.

The fund will be managed by the Grassroots Business Fund team led by its global chief executive Harold Rosen who is in the country to fine-tune the details with the Chamber.

Following a meeting with KNCCI President Richard Ngatia, Rosen - who is based in the US - hailed the chamber for its dynamism in supporting MSMEs.

"This initiative is crucial for the fact that many startups find it hard to go beyond one year upon initial funding. The programme will help sustain such businesses and strengthen their financial standing so that they are able to qualify for higher credit," said Ngatia.

The two discussed partnership areas in women-led and youth-led startups with the emphasis being on access to affordable and appropriate finance and capacity building through training.

Both organisations seek to address the funding gap existing in the value chain by pairing up financial support with well-tailored technical assistance, and a hands-on coordination strategy for businesses.

This is geared towards effecting positive behaviour change and resource flow by providing digital tools to improve business process automation and incorporation of technology.

"As a chamber, we are ready to ensure a conducive business environment and build businesses capacity," said Ngatia. He committed to availing a membership base of potential youth and women-led businesses for funding and coming up with sustainable trade support activities that will ensure that the objectives are achieved.

Rosen said that his organisation aims to economically empower high-impact SMEs whose business models are to increase incomes and at the same time lower costs in low-income communities especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America by providing investment capital and access to technical assistance services.

Since 2004 GBF has managed over Sh10 billion from government agencies, development financial institutions and private foundations and investors.

"By supporting inclusive SMEs that create opportunity for economic mobility and generate incomes for thousands of people from underserved communities, GBF contributes to poverty alleviation and economic growth for vulnerable communities at a higher scale," said Rosen who was accompanied by GBF's Africa Head of Strategy Lilian Mramba, among other officials during the meeting at Chamber offices in Nairobi.

While meeting senators last week on the orientation of the chamber in Mombasa, Mr Ngatia singled out double taxation as a major impediment to sustainable business.

"The complaints we have as traders are the so-called double taxation. We pay tax twice to move goods from the Coast to Nairobi and in some areas, we pay thrice," said Ngatia.

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