Tag Archives: SMEs

Can Kenya’s Government Replicate Ports Success to Create Jobs?

Mombasa Port. (Photo: Business Daily)

Mombasa Port. (Photo: Business Daily)

By Ben Kiragu

One of the things Kenya’s new government succeeded in doing within its first year was to reduce the number of days it takes to move cargo from the Mombasa port to Malaba from 18 to 8 days — a 56 percent improvement in just 6 months. This is a major achievement which has boosted commercial relations with Uganda and other neighboring landlocked countries, forestalled competition from alternative transit routes, and ultimately reduced the cost of doing business, therefore improving economic growth in the region. How did the government accomplish this?

First of all, the president set up a cabinet subcommittee of Cabinet Secretaries dealing with the Northern Corridor — the transit links connecting Kenya’s landlocked neighbors to the sea — which reported to him during weekly cabinet meetings.  Second, administrative changes were instituted; all agencies involved in the process including KRA, KEPHIS, KEBS and KMA were instructed to work under the authority of the Kenya Ports Authority and relocated to Mombasa port. Also all government agencies were to take orders from KPA and finalize operations in Mombasa without reference to any other authority. Finally, the process of clearing was digitized and weighing bridges were modernized.

What are the lessons learnt from this? There was very clear knowledge, analysis, and understanding of the problems and where the bottle necks lay, therefore solving the problem was undertaken with almost surgical precision. There was very little need for new financial resources or the construction of major physical infrastructure. This is one of the key reasons why most projects in Kenya are delayed, as they wait for budgetary allocations or get into procurement bureaucracy and controversy as we have come to see especially as a result expanded democratic space. Lastly  and probably most important there was clear and dynamic leadership, the president led from the front on this one and delegated to decisive and action-oriented managers. The impact is there for all to see.

Creation of jobs was one of the rallying calls of the Jubilee campaign with 1 million jobs promised per year, but so far no major job creating initiative has borne fruit. The government seems to be waiting for big projects such as the Standard Gauge Railway and the Galana-Kulalu irrigation project to create jobs; one wonders if this will work, as time is clearly not on their side especially given the issues associated with some of these projects. My recommendation: why not replicate the cargo movement magic to prune low-hanging fruits and achieve quick wins in job creation by creating an enabling environment for micro and small enterprises (MSEs)?

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Entrepreneurship in Egypt and Tunisia After the Arab Spring

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In 2011, both Tunisia and Egypt were rocked by popular protests against economic and political repression that ended in the ouster of their authoritarian governments. Three years later, how much progress have these states made in reforming their economies? And what has happened to the entrepreneurs whose grievances helped fuel these revolutions?

Reforming the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Post-Revolutionary Egypt and Tunisia, a report from CIPE and Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), attempts to answer these key questions. With this report, CIPE staff and IACE will engage policymakers and stakeholders in roundtable discussions to formulate policy recommendations in the coming weeks.

Working with CIPE Cairo staff and CIPE partner L’Institut Arabe des Chefs d’Entreprises (IACE) in Tunisia, lead researcher Amr Adly conducted an extensive study of existing literature and over 100 detailed interviews with entrepreneurs in each country to shed light on the obstacles and opportunities that comprise the entrepreneurial ecosystems in these post-revolutionary states.

The survey results paint a small yet detailed portrait of what life is like for the Egyptians and Tunisians trying to make ends meet in countries with increasing unemployment rates, among other worries. Dysfunctional and inaccessible regulatory structures, crony networks solidified by corrupt past regimes, and a lack of access to information for the private sector and policymakers are only a few of the areas for which Adly’s research provides nuance.

Who are the entrepreneurs that can withstand such an unstable environment? The majority of respondents in both countries affirmed that they do not trust formal contract enforcement, managed to start their business largely through self-financing due to a lack of access to loans, and endure high transaction costs as a result of inadequate institutions. They are men and women, younger and older, more or less educated, formally registered or informally operating, risking bankruptcy and/or jail time for a failed venture, running joint or solo endeavors—and they are all citizens for whom their government is not working.

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Kenya’s Optimistic Future: Visiting a KnowHow Mentee in Nairobi

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Gregg Talley is the CEO and President of Talley Management Group. He is serving as a mentor to Small and Medium Entrepreneurial Resource Centre in Kenya through CIPE’s Knowhow Mentorship program. 

I have the good fortune of traveling to Kenya annually to see friends and family. But now, thanks to CIPE, I have another great reason to visit. I met with the CEO and founder of my KnowHow Mentorship mentee association, the Small and Medium Entrepreneurial Resource Centre (SMERC), June Gathoni, in Nairobi on my trip this March.

We all know the value of face to face meetings and this proved itself again to be true for us. While we had many productive calls and have been able to deliver on the value of the mentorship, the ability to sit together and discuss our lives, challenges and plans for the future proved invaluable to us both. We now have a personal connection that will remain well beyond the life of this mentorship program.

Like any small to midsize program, June has A LOT going on and has to balance management of the day to day with the bigger picture role she has for the future growth and sustainability of the organization. Luckily, SMERC is completely aligned with the KENYA 2030 Plan envisioned by the national government.

Even better, SMERC has “sandals on the ground” in the counties where much of the devolution of government programing and spending is being focused. We have been working on how June and SMERC can raise their visibility within academia, the corporate sector, and government in Kenya.

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Ukraine Small Businesses Unite to Call for Policy Reforms

Minister of Economic Development Pavlo Sheremeta (left) with CIPE Deputy Director Andrew Wilson (center) and László Kállay, SME expert and Professor at Corvinus University of Budapest (right).

Minister of Economic Development Pavlo Sheremeta (left) with CIPE Deputy Director Andrew Wilson (center) and László Kállay, SME expert and Professor at Corvinus University of Budapest (right).

In the weeks following the so-called “EuroMaidan” protests in Kyiv that led to the installation of an interim government and the scheduling of early presidential elections, attention in Ukraine began to turn to the need for urgent measures to jump-start the economy, as well as for a comprehensive set of policy reforms in the medium- to longer-term to get the country on track.

With stagnant growth, large fiscal deficits, and the likelihood that international assistance from the IMF will be predicated on a set of austerity measures, many analysts believe that the only way to stimulate Ukraine’s economy is to support the growth of the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector, which represents just a small fraction of the country’s economy in comparison to the countries of Europe which Ukraine aspires to join.

To help articulate just what changes are needed, and to ensure that that the SME sector has a voice in the policy reform discussion, a group of Ukrainian business associations representing SMEs and leading think tanks organized a national forum to discuss a coordinated strategy for reform on April 8-9 with support from CIPE.

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Overcoming the Collective Action Problem: How to Encourage Businesses to Fight Against Corruption

Without a strong compliance program, many smaller Russian firms could be locked out of lucrative contracts with big multinationals.

Without a strong compliance program, many smaller Russian firms could be locked out of lucrative contracts with big multinationals.

By Henry Nelson

In countries with weak rule of law, anti-corruption efforts suffer from a collective action problem: because bribery and corruption are endemic and occur frequently, individual small business owners hesitate to reform because they fear that doing so will reduce their competitiveness.

If a small or medium-sized enterpise (SME) begins to eschew bribery, it might be incapable of securing contracts that require paying a bribe, for example. The threat of short-term loss of business is serious for SMEs and can deter companies from pursuing anti-corruption compliance.

Furthermore, the collective action problem effects the general business environment. Without a strong, coordinated voice on the importance of compliance, corruption continues to be seen as “business as usual” and the consensus continues to be that bribery is a necessary component of conducting business.

This collective action problem is pervasive and continues to pose issues for CIPE and its many global partners. It is difficult to implement reforms when SMEs fear that the reforms will hurt their business.

Earlier this month, CIPE’s Washington office hosted a delegation of CIPE Russia officers and regional CIPE partners for a discussion on value-chain anti-corruption efforts in Russia. The discussion yielded plenty of interesting information on CIPE Russia’s plan to work with regional Russian chambers of commerce in order to educate local SMEs about international anti-corruption laws like the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and UK Bribery Act.

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The Impact of the Property Rights Regime on Small Business in Kenya

New "malls" in downtown Nairobi offer opportunities for small business. But are their property rights being  respected?

New “malls” in downtown Nairobi offer opportunities for small business. But are their property rights being respected?

By David Owiro

Over the past few years, residents of Nairobi’s central business district (CDB) have noticed an interesting phenomenon. The previously large commercial premises on the main streets and avenues have been subdivided, converting them to mall-type premises that allow for subletting to many micro, small, and medium businesses. This phenomenon is, however, not unique to the CBD. This model, I’m made to understand, was borrowed from India, where mostly fabric traders sell their wares under one roof. The concept has spread to Eastleigh estate in Nairobi and can also be observed in some of the major towns in Kenya.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) carried out a qualitative survey of small businesses who operate in such mall-type commercial premises in Nairobi’s CBD to determine the impact of the property rights regime on their businesses, and the findings point to a deeper policy problem. In spite of the recent property rights reforms brought about by the new constitution, the study found poor enforcement of property rights, agency coordination problems, and low awareness levels among small businesses, leading to exploitation, abuse of tenant rights, and a hostile business environment.

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Creating a Framework for Small Business Growth in Kenya

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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.

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