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Inside Sh800 million plan to boost jua kali sector

A Jua kali artisan chisels a metal sheet to make a frying pot at Kibuye market in Kisumu on June 13, 2019. [File, Standard]

Consumers’ negative attitude towards jua kali products is one of the pain points dwarfing the sector’s growth as identified in its first strategic plan.

The plan also singled out identified the sector’s old manual production methods that should be replaced with modern technology to grow the industry.

The Sh800 million plan unveiled in June 2023 seeks to address these among other weaknesses in the sector as the Kenya National Federation of Jua Kali Associations (KNFJKA) projects a robust sector with a solid contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The 2022-2027 plan whose launch was overseen by Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Principal Secretary Susan Mang’eni and also identified Kenyan’s entrepreneurial culture and government goodwill as some of the tailwinds for the sector.

Regional markets 

KNFJKA aims to take advantage as well of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to enhance capacity for its export business and increase marketing activity to penetrate regional markets.

The federation has aligned strategic responses to both challenges and opportunities in the sector which if well implemented should see growth in the sector.

Part of these strategic responses is to change the structure of the federation’s secretariat and various organisational reforms to enhance the capacity of implementing the plan.

This should aid the federation in monitoring and periodic reviews of the plan.

The federation noted in the plan that the use of old manual production methods has caused the sector to be unable to set and maintain quality standards.

Commercilisation

To this end, it seeks to launch standard improvements program for the clusters.

The federation will also sign collaborative agreements with intellectual property (IP) institutions to boost IP protection which it noted in the plan that its absence discourages innovation.

Members will also be sensitised on IP rights and enhance collaboration with Kenya Industrial Property Institute(KIPI) and other IP bodies.

The sector is also noted to have low and unstructured access to information technology which has caused low participation in e-commerce.

The federation also noted the negative consumer attitude or bad reputation towards the sector which results in weak demand for the products.  

To counter this, the federation seeks to create and develop jua kali brands in key sub-sectors.

Even so, the sector also has poor marketing and commercialisation strategies.

Stephen Muhoma goes through his Jua Kali work at Bama Market in Nakuru on June 13,2019. [File, Standard]

“Innovative products of the sector do not find their way into the market,” reads the plan in part.

A lot of emphasis will then be put into developing a commercial division to guide commercialisation and eliminate as well exploitation by brokers and middlemen.

Take-off

Solomon Ncebere, the federation’s national chairperson said that the sector is now at a take-off stage where it is poised to carry the many hopes of industrialisation of the country and the prosperity of various entrepreneurs and the economy at large.

“Although the business environment was not very supportive at first, we soldiered on and many enterprises have survived the times prompting the Government and other stakeholders to recognise the efforts of the sector from the allotment of land for working spaces, the inclusion of the sector in policy formulation and statements by the government, to the current promotion of the sectors’ products in foreign markets,” said Ncebere.

He said this first strategic plan (2022-2027) will help the federation coordinate the activities of the next five years to make the sector become the key to prosperity for our citizens and the economy.

Incentives

The federation seeks to achieve this prosperity by lobbying further for more incentives from both the national government and counties.

This will involve the signing of collaborative Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) with both levels of government and other stakeholders.  

These partnerships with counties will narrow down to one county one product initiative which should enhance comparative advantage.

This, the federation projects, will increase the productivity and competitiveness of clusters.

The federation will also increase marketing of its products out of the country leveraging on the AfCFTA as it works with KIPI to smoothen the registration process of patents.

Nevertheless, the federation is cognisant of several threats to the implementation of its strategic plan and one of them being unfair competition from large manufacturers.

The federation noted this unfair competition is a result of the sector’s inability to set and maintain quality standards.

Supply agreements

To counter this, KNFJKA will secure agreements with large manufacturers to for supply of components.

The aging workforce and declining productivity in the sector are also other threats which the federation is planning to carry out youth mentorship and empowerment.

The federation documents that despite the absence of a strategic plan before, umbrella association body and the sector at large have achieved commendable milestones.

Other challenges faced during this period include limited health and safety in the worksites, shortage of and inappropriate work sites, lack of standardisation of the sector products and non-appreciation of the industrial and intellectual property rights.

Richard Muteti, the federation’s chief executive said in this first strategic plan, they seek to strengthen the KNFJKA to grow its capacity to advocate, protect, and develop the interests of its primary association members.

“The federation also seeks to work with the relevant stakeholders; from both the private and public sectors (national and county government ministries, departments and agencies) and development partners, so as to facilitate suitable credit flow to the sector, inculcate an entrepreneurial culture amongst youths as a fertile ground for new enterprises, improving productivity and competitiveness of the sectors’ products,” said Mr Muteti.

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