Businesses laud State's push to lift small traders

President William Ruto is introduced to the KNCCI board by the lobby's president Richard Ngatia during its recent AGM in Nairobi. [File, Standard]

The business community has welcomed the government's push to support small businesses, including the recently established Hustlers Fund.

Speakers at the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Annual General Meeting, members said despite teething problems, including low limits, the fund would progressively provide Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with much-needed working capital as they seek to emerge from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We support your administration's initiative, and today you have listened to the MSMEs that we work with, which will benefit from the new fund," KNCCI President Richard Ngatia told guests, who included President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua in Nairobi.

He said the fund would complement the lobby's efforts to provide cheap loans in partnership with financial institutions such as Master Card Foundation and Equity Bank to help businesses recover from the impact of the pandemic.

The fund, pegged at Sh50 billion, targets individuals, small enterprises, chamas and table banking groups, Saccos and start-ups, among other groups.

It was one of the key campaign promises of the Ruto administration to provide financial services and products that are affordable and accessible for all.

"We walked all over the country and Kenyans told us they need funding to run their business," said Ruto during its launch in Nairobi on November 30.

"That's why we decided to create a special fund to allow all Kenyans to get affordable credit despite their lack of physical address, a title deed, log books or similar guarantees."

At the meeting, Mr Ngatia, who dropped out of the race for the Nairobi Governor's seat on a Jubilee ticket under the Azimio la Umoja banner committed to working with the ruling Kenya Kwanza administration.

The chamber has recently increased efforts to support small businesses and last week signed a partnership deal with KCB Group to support MSMEs.

Under the deal, KCB Bank will offer its products, payment and forex solutions and free account maintenance for amounts above Sh120,000 to its over 20,000 members.

At the same time, the KCB Foundation will provide MSMEs with free financial literacy programmes through the 2Jiajiri, Mifugo ni Mali and Agribusiness programmes.

Earlier, KNCCI hosted prominent United Arabs Emirates (UAE) and Somalia business leaders as it launched a new e-commerce platform platform.

"Businesses should take advantage of this new platform for its ability to reduce costs of trade and get big bargains from UAE," said Ngatia.

Also at a meeting with the Japanese Ambassador to Kenya Okinawa Ken, KNCCI identified joint opportunities for businesses from both countries, including commercialisation of the outputs from key research institutions such as the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

"We are looking to a bright prospect of 2023, especially with Covid-19 now behind us, and the future can't be brighter for small and medium businesses in Kenya," he said.

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