Just as the economic fallout caused by Covid-19 pandemic looked like it was under control, SMEs across Kenya are now grappling with a new set of challenges: an inflationary trade environment, supply chain woes, and rising interest rates.
For thousands of business owners, these challenges have conspired to steadily increase the cost of doing business.
To help them address these issues, Absa Bank Kenya in partnership with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNNCI), has started reaching out to about 1,000 SMEs in Western Kenya, providing them with key skills and tailor-made financial boost to help them build back better and flourish.
“We shall be hosting close to 200 SMEs in Kisumu with a keen focus on identifying and exploiting opportunities for growth. As an enabler of business, we understand that empowering SMEs makes a substantial contribution to livelihoods and fosters inclusive growth for the region,” said interim Absa Bank Kenya CEO, Mr Yusuf Omari, when he launched the business empowerment sessions in the lakeside city.
Mr Omari noted that the tailor-made campaign, which is set to spread into Kisii, Kitale, Eldoret and Bungoma this week, is set to scale up the capacity of businesses in the western region and is part of the Pan African lender’s commitment to working with investors in Kenya to achieve shared success and bring new possibilities to life.
In the last five years, the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed lender has provided about Kes50 billion in loans under the bank’s Wezesha Biashara bespoke financial products program, repositioning it as an enabler for the small, medium and micro enterprises (SMEs), and as a result, recording double-digit growth from the vibrant segment in the last one year alone.
Financial disclosures show that Absa has impacted over 20,000 women entrepreneurs in the country in the last one year through the Women in Business program.
In Kenya, women entrepreneurs account for slightly more than a third (33 percent) of the country’s registered small businesses, implying that financial institutions have to reconsider how they can tap their potential to drive growth in the segment.
Absa, which has a presence in 38 counties, plans to enhance the business skills and the entrepreneurial ability of over one million women by providing among others unsecured lending of up to Kes10 million, payable over five years for existing borrowers and Kes7 million for new borrowers payable in four years.
Absa has entered into a strategic partnership with the KNNCI to drive grassroots engagement with businesses from both an industry and institutional level touching on key sectors of the economy such as agriculture, the blue economy, logistics, tourism, mining and energy, Mr Omari explained.
“We have partnered with KNCCI to provide mentorship and networking opportunities to businessmen and women across Kisumu County as part of our efforts to support enterprise development. On the forum’s agenda are critical issues like how to formalise business, access the right business products as well as ready markets for their goods and services,” he added.
Kisumu County head for Finance and Planning George Omondi Okongó lauded Absa for its ongoing SME outreaches and highlighted the importance of partnerships with banks to accelerate development in the region.
“There are opportunities for our county government to partner with banks such as Absa towards enabling a thriving business community, boosting revenue collection solutions and timely payments of pending County bills. We look forward to working with Absa,” said Mr Okongó.
The western Kenya campaign comes months after the bank, in partnership with the KNCCI, upskilled over 1,000 women entrepreneurs in Nairobi, Coast, Western, Nyanza and the Rift Valley regions earlier this year.
The core areas of training were sustainability, fundraising, book-keeping, and networking to transform them into profitable operations.