By Maurice Momanyi

Players in the Micro and Small Enterprises (SMEs) sector in the country and the region at large are set to benefit more from an updated sector booklet on services and products offered by the small business owners.

The launch of the second edition of the Medium and Small Enterprises (MSMEs) Handbook is a project of the SME Support East Africa (SME S-EA) and the SME Handbook Secretariat, collaborating with a technical team from key public and private sector stakeholders.

The comprehensive information handbook is developed with the knowledge that SMEs, especially those in the rural areas experience major challenges accessing business services as a result of little awareness of what the market is offering.

In recent years, the SME sector has been cited as a key driver of the economy, providing the bulk of jobs for not only the country’s, but also the region’s youth population.

At the launch of the second edition of the MSME Handbook at a Nairobi hotel today, the Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization and Enterprise Development Adan Mohamed who was the chief guest, said the government was sensitive to the important role SMEs and the private sector in general play in the country’s economic development.

“The government fully recognizes the critical role that the private sector, development partners and other stakeholders are playing in ensuring appropriate products and services are available to the SMEs. This is why my ministry has collaborated with the SME Handbook (Secretariat) which is in line with the national goal of developing this sector as government continues to support similar initiatives that help in reaching our objectives for the sector,” CS Mohamed said.

This second edition of the SME Handbook will be distributed through the national and county governments’ information centers, various apex business member organizations in the MSMEs, women and youth entrepreneurs sector, national and county government information centers, among other outlets.

The first edition of the handbook, produced in 2011, was adopted by the then Ministry of Trade and other key institutions as a reference publication in the Business Information Centres (BICs) spread across the country.
Speaking at the same function, the SME Sector Handbook Project Team Leader Richard Muteti, expressed gratitude to the government’s recognition of the SMEs sector in the country’s development, adding that the launch was a concerted effort made to empower small business owners with timely and relevant information.

“The SMEs sector is the largest employer and incubator for new business and budding entrepreneurs in Kenya. This sector covers all areas of the economy and is a key driver of the country’s industrialization agenda,” Muteti said.

“Creation of a platform that can help the SME sector share information and attract business is one of the means that can be used to achieve growth and expansion in the sector.”

Mr Muteti added that the SME Handbook is specially developed by industry players with support from various government institutions to close up on the information gap. He went on to say that information sharing on innovation, technology, finance and a budget is essential, terming it “an idea whose popularity has been felt in the sector and beyond.”

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the launch event, Mr Muteti explained that emergence of new products, services and advances in technology introduced into the sector necessitated the development of the updated SMEs Handbook.

Mr Muteti went on to say that the handbook will provide a road-map to sector players in Kenya on what is available for them in the public and private sectors to assist them in growing their businesses, adding that it also provides a wealth of information on how to run their businesses and empower them to become better business people.

Mr Muteti, who is also the Chief Executive of the Kenya National Federation of Jua Kali Associations (KNFJKA) and the chairman of COMESA Business Council SMEs Work Group, said the SMEs Handbook’s countrywide distribution network will ensure that the book reaches all small business people throughout the country hence effectively mitigating to a large extent the the problem of access to important sector information.

Another lead player, the East Africa Confederation of Informal Sector Organizations, added its voice to the launch through its Deputy Patron Keli Kiilu, saying it will go a long way in creating awareness of the potential inherent in the sector. Kiilu said the presence of leaders from different institutions involved in policy formulation, regulation and diverse support to the sector is clear manifestation of its key role in social and economic development of our nation.

“Suffice to sate that this handbook encompasses various sub-sectors in Kenya which has about 15 million players, with the ultimate goal targeting the entire East Africa region with over 45 million operators,” Kiilu said.

“This launch is yet another milestone propelling the SMEs as a key driver of the regional integration process as well as a major base for industrialization and entrepreneurship.”

Some of the sponsors of the Handbook Project are Kenya Power, Kenya Bureau of Standards, MSE Authority, Mount Kenya University, Commission for University Education and Association of Micro-finance Institutions among others.