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E4Impact initiative: Giving small business more than just a chance

By Peter Theuri | November 5th 2021
By Peter Theuri | November 5th 2021

E4Impact partners hold on a dummy cheque during the Launch of the E4Impact Entrepreneurship centre at their Karen offices on November 04, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard].

As the batch of entrepreneurs who benefited from the first phase of E4Impact accelerator programme were feted, it was announced the project will be scaled up into a fully-fledged entrepreneurship centre.

The first batch of 40 entrepreneurs who benefited from the programme now pave way for a new batch of 120.

E4Impact is an initiative that was started in 2010 by ALTIS, Graduate School of Business and Society of the Universita Catolica del Sucro Cuore (UCSC) to train impact entrepreneurs in Africa in the start-up and growth of business.

Over 1,000 entrepreneurs have been incubated and accelerated in different programmes in E4Impact, with funding from The European Union, French Embassy and other partners. E4Impact Accelerator programme was founded with an aim to grow a new generation of African impact entrepreneurs and to promote partnerships between Europe and Africa. Its main aim is to enhance the sustainable development of fast-growing economies by training impact entrepreneurs and scaling the growth of their businesses.

Thousands of new jobs

E4Impact currently offers its programmes in 12 African countries with a goal of training over 3,000 entrepreneurs, and establishing 1,000 new enterprises and thousands of new jobs in the formal economy.

“We help the entrepreneurs access finance, and also play a huge role in helping in digitisation of traditional business models. We also help in facilitating cross border trade and in job creation,” says Frank Cinque, the General Manager, E4Impact Foundation.

Funded by the Italian Agency for Development Co-operation, the E4Impact Accelerator, which was launched by the E4Impact Foundation, works with Kenyan businesses to grow their business, scale their impact, facilitate investment fundraising, and market linkages to international markets.

The initiative helps entrepreneurs of the accelerated companies access a pool of funds, alongside creating a connection and mentorship with Italian businesses.

It has also helped them gain access to satellite technologies from Openet Technologies (GNSS, Earth Observation products, precision farming), and helps them access office space, and customised training programmes.

The entrepreneurs also get access to international and local coaching and mentorship, and professional services (legal, accounting, marketing).

Coaching and mentorship

In an economy that he says runs on the back of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor Patrick Njoroge is one of the staunchest believers in the potential of E4Africa.

“An institution that provides space and helps SMEs grow is a timely one, and so an agreement between the CBK and E4Impact was way to go,” says Dr Njoroge.

Kenya is a country famed for innovations.

Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya Dr Patrick Njoroge talks to Frank Cinque (Right)-General Manager E4Impact Foundation, David Cheboryot East Africa Manager EImpact Foundation and other entrepreneurs during the Launch of E4Impact Entrepreneurship centre at their Karen offices on November 04, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

It has had a growth of fintech firms, and E4Impact has collaborated with the CBK to help in up-to-date digitisation of such companies.  

Dr Njoroge reminisces a hackcelerator competition in which, in 2019, Kenyan fintechs participated in Singapore, with two of the 15 finalists being Kenyan.

Value addition

And with a devastation on the economy thanks to the marauding Covid-19, Dr Njoroge says it is time that entrepreneurs gird their loins and go for the kill.

“We have a problem of climate change, and the negative effects on livelihoods have been exacerbated by Covid-19. We, more than ever before, need SMEs to shield livelihoods,” he says.

Elizabeth Jebiwot, a beneficiary of the first phase of the E4Impact accelerator programme, displays unique locally made crisps. Some she processes using arrow root, others sweet potatoes, while others come from chia seeds. Still, some she makes from sukuma wiki, others from mango and yet others from millet.

“The aim is to localise as much as we can. Use local products and make these products from that, considering what our people eat. We do not need to keep on importing; we actually need to nationalise and market our staple food out there. Mukimo (a Central Kenya dish of mashed potatoes, pumpkin leaves and maize) would be a huge hit in the United States, for example, and don’t you think we could do better with such locally acclaimed traditional dishes in our top eateries than having exotic food?”

Dr Njoroge says while entrepreneurs should jump onto the bandwagon and leverage on the growth of E4Impact, they should make sure that their ventures are people-centric, help in further protecting the environment as the world tries to cope with climate crisis.

He also insists that the smallest of entrepreneurial ventures should be supported to grow into giants that can rival global behemoths.

“It is by supporting that local tailor who is just getting started that we can one day see them become a globally recognised brand. But these business have to ensure that they also give customers good quality that ensures value for their money,” Dr Njoroge says.

Going organic

But the entrepreneurs should also be responsible and when doing business should consider going organic and also creating socially responsible businesses, says Henriette Geiger, Head of European Union Delegation to Kenya.

“People are prepared to pay a lot of money if they know that your product followed rules of social responsibility,” she says.

“If no rights have been violated enroute to production, then your customers will commit to buy.”

She says the European Union, the world’s largest trading bloc, is run on SMEs. The initiative by E4Impact is thus a welcome intervention to see Kenya also promote the welfare of SMEs.

This is also echoed by Alberto Pieri, the Ambassador of Italy to Kenya, who says that SMEs contribute to a huge chunk of Italy’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“As in Kenya where around 40 per cent of the GDP is contributed by SMEs, Italy is largely driven by SMEs,” he says. Kenya’s focus on funding and development of SMEs, he says, is a laudable move and will boost the economy.

When the applications are open, The Standard Newspaper sends out the advert with a link to the application site.

“An entrepreneur will make an application, and there will be a pre-selection to break down the number of candidates,” says David Cheboryot, the East Africa Manager for E4Impact Foundation.

Application process

“The selected candidates are then required to pitch to a panel of judges who give them valuable feedback to help them before background checks are done to ensure all necessary requirements are met by the projects. Contracting and official cohort launch follow.”

In collaboration with ALTIS – Graduate School of Business and Society and Tangaza University College of Nairobi, E4Impact also offers a unique Blended MBA in Impact Entrepreneurship to provide active and aspiring Kenyan entrepreneurs with results-oriented education, coaching, and interaction with the local business community and potential investors.

The Master Programme, which was launched for African students in Rome in 2005, was moved to Kenya to decrease the brain drain from the African continent. It has seen, among others, two projects including support to resilience for sustainable livelihoods in west Pokot County and building drought resilience in Isiolo county through sustainable livelihoods, start in Kenya.

The Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and Enterprise Development has lauded the E4Impact initiative for the support of youth and women.

The Standard Group’s Moses Ochola, General Manager sales and distribution, says The Standard Group, who is a partner in E4Impact, will continue to give a space where entrepreneurs can showcase their businesses and reach a wider audience as well as educate and inspire Kenyans on entrepreneurship.

“We have had a five-year collaboration with the E4Impact and we will continue to offer visibility to the entrepreneurs. we have a Wednesday pullout called Enterprise in which we feature these business people. We will continually work together to ensure that there is even more impact going ahead,” said Ochola.

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