Kenyan MSMEs eye regional trade opprtunities at Burundi trade fair

MSMEs Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui. [Samson Wire, Standard]

In a bid to strengthen their presence in the regional market, Kenya's small enterprises are gearing up to participate in the 23rd MSME Exhibition and Trade Fair scheduled to take place in Bujumbura, Burundi from December 5 to 15. 

At least 300 Kenyan micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are set to attend the fair, underlining the country's commitment to showcasing its offerings and creating export opportunities.

Over 1,500 regional MSMEs are expected to showcase new products, and innovative services, and share experiences that helped them navigate economic challenges.

Co-operatives and MSMEs Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui emphasised the importance of this event during the commissioning of the committee responsible for vetting the participating SMEs.

“I encourage Kenyan entrepreneurs to leverage this opportunity to share knowledge, forge new business links, launch innovative products and services, conduct test marketing, and enhance the brand and corporate image of products and enterprises from the East African Community (EAC) region,” he said in Nairobi.

CS Chelugui stressed that the committee should ensure representation from all 47 Kenyan counties.

The East African Community (EAC) Exhibition is an annual event that has historically brought together MSMEs from East Africa's partner nations to expand their reach into new markets, share technologies, and enhance regional integration.

MSME Authority Chairman James Mureu said they have taken a data-driven approach to select the 300 MSEs set to participate.

“We have established robust key performance indicators (KPIs) such as the number of locally made products to be sold during the trade fair, the volume of value-added local products traded, the growth of MSE revenue through product and service sales, and the number of new leads generated from contacts established,” he said.

The recent inclusion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the EAC has significantly expanded the market size and GDP, making the EAC region competitive and easily accessible to the larger African Continental Free Trade Area.

Intra-regional trade within the EAC has been on an upward trajectory, with the value recorded at $10.17 billion (Sh1.5 trillion) as at September 2022.

"Thus, the objective of the trade fair resonates with the East African industrialisation strategy target to increase intra-regional manufacturing of exports relative to total manufactured imports in the region to at least 25 per cent by 2032," MSME Authority said.

Chelugui urged Kenyan MSMEs to explore trade and investment prospects in areas such as agro-processing, education, health, finance, energy, light manufacturing, and construction.

According to the CS, with economies recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the fair Burundi fair emphasises the importance of local sourcing and deepening value chain frameworks to ensure business resilience.

“This approach will help industries and organisations identify core competencies, areas for improvement, and business functions that support strategic activities,” he said.

This initiative will involve enhancing MSME awareness, transparency in digital markets and trade, and compliance with international quality standards, ultimately enabling Kenyan businesses to enter foreign markets more easily. 

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