Malach Onditi started Elemach Scales, a small business that manufactures weighing scales, in Nairobi, Kenya twelve years ago with a startup capital of $120 and one employee. Today the company has an annual turnover of $52,000 dollars, has twelve employees, and sells the scales not only in Kenya but also in Uganda and Tanzania. To exist this long in an environment where over 90 percent of business start-ups do not survive to the third year has not been an easy undertaking. Elemach Scales has experienced several challenges along this journey including inaccessibility of affordable credit, barriers to regional trade and access to markets, and harassment by county government officials in regards to licensing and workspace
Elemach Scales typifies a majority of small businesses in Kenya — a sector which currently provides 78 percent of the country’s total employment, more than 90 percent of new jobs, and 18 percent of GDP. CIPE has worked with its partners over the last five years in efforts to build awareness for micro and small enterprise policy reform, facilitating extensive stakeholder input and building capacity for its advocacy which culminated in the signing into law of the MSE Act in December 2012.
“But wise is the man who disdains no character, but with searching glance explores him to the root and cause of all.” — Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls
Corruption in Ukraine cuts across regions, all sectors of the economy, and almost every institution. In some sense it’s become a rallying point: since everyone is harmed by corruption, CIPE’s private sector-led, collective action approach to anticorruption in Ukraine is based on bringing the business community together to work towards common solutions.
Given that Ukraine’s business associations are among the country’s weakest civil society institutions — such associations did not exist during 70 years of Communist rule — small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are underrepresented nationally in civil society and political life. Despite this fact, Ukrainian public discourse on issues affecting the business community is vibrant and relatively open. This appears to be improving on the regional level, in part through CIPE support of business associations representing SMEs, a little more notably each year. Individual business associations, as well as eight new coalitions of associations, now work collectively at the regional level.
Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat, seen at night. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The private sector faces challenges to growing and developing within Turkmenistan’s primarily state-controlled economy. For small and medium-sized entrepreneurs in the regions, the challenges vary but include overregulation and excessive bureaucratic procedures. A survey of SMEs in the country’s five regions found similar obstacles for business growth as well as some differences.
In the northern province of Dashoguz, SME representatives identified the following as the most pressing barriers to growing their businesses:
- Limited access to credit
- Lack of information on business-related legislation
- Not enough information available about the domestic market situation
In Ahal region, where the capital Ashgabat is located, entrepreneurs report that the situation for business has stabilized in the past year. SME owners expressed optimism about the state of their business activities, asserting that if one is persistent and driven, it is possible to operate a successful business. SMEs in the Balkan region, which borders the Caspian Sea, also note some improvements in the ease of doing business, citing market stabilization as the main factor.
Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan formed a Customs Union in 2010 to integrate the three economies more by removing trade barriers across borders. The member states have shared a single economic space since the beginning of 2012.
The Institute of Privatization and Management (IPM) based in Minsk, Belarus surveyed 400 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in 2012 to understand better how SMEs view the Customs Union. The survey results showed that Belarus’ membership in the Customs Union poses challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises due to the difficulty of competing with Russian and Kazakh SMEs.
My recent visit to Dakar, Senegal, where I met with longtime CIPE partner, l’Union National des Commercants et Industriels du Senegal (UNACOIS) was very informative and revealed how much impact a good CIPE partnership can bring to bear.
The decade-long partnership between CIPE and UNACOIS – a Senegalese private sector association with 70,000 members who operate small and medium enterprises, mainly in the informal sector — is proving increasingly consequential within Senegal’s civil society circles. CIPE and UNACOIS have partnered on three programs whose core objective was to enhance UNACOIS’ internal governance capacity.
A public-private dialogue session with Senegalese business leaders and President Macky Sall. Watch here (in Wolof)
Caught between the West African Sahel and tropical regions, Senegal is one of the more stable democracies among Francophone countries in Africa. Its record on democratic governance extends back to its independence from under French colonial rule. However, in the economic sphere, it has remained second-best to Cote d’Ivoire – which, with Nigeria, is one of the region’s top two economic powerhouses – and hence assumed a lower international profile.
Nevertheless, with an overwhelmingly young population, food security and unemployment challenges, and its geographic and cultural proximity to neighboring countries that host various radical Islamist groups, Senegal is in need of a vibrant private sector that can contribute to inclusive economic development. Such an outcome is important to Senegal’s democratic stability, as it addresses issues of food security, the religious radicalization of masses of unemployed youth, and the rise to prominence of illicit trades in arms and humans across West Africa.
(Photo: Associated Press)
Veteran Ukrainian legislator Ksenia Lyapina is optimistic about the makeup of the newly elected parliament, the Verhovna Rada. Not only is she being joined in the 450-member body by six new deputies with an explicitly pro-entrepreneur agenda, but her party has some muscular new allies on key votes: both figuratively and literally. In the first two days of the new Rada’s proceedings in mid-December, pushing matches, brawls, and fistfights broke out on the floor. Lyapina liked what she saw among the 37 deputies in the Svoboda (“Freedom”) party.
“Now, we’ve got Svoboda with us. They’ve got some young men in good physical shape,” she said at a restaurant near the Rada on December 13, shortly after the closing of the second day of the proceedings. “Before, we were being beaten all the time,” added Lyapina, a refined woman who is one of Ukraine’s leading experts on issues of importance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).