The Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2017 is being held for the first time on the African continent, signaling to the global investment community that South Africa is open for business and ready to lead the entrepreneurial revolution on the African continent. The South African delegation recently visited Nairobi, Kenya, in an effort to interact with ecosystem role players, raise awareness, as well as drive participation from the Kenyan community for GEC 2017. The event was hosted in partnership with WECREATE Kenya and the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Kenya between the 25–26 January 2017.
The visit to the East African country agenda addressed the following: Africa’s poor integration, challenges to intra-trade and barriers to growth; Connect African entrepreneurs’ and encourage new partnerships and collaborations; promote youth entrepreneurship in regional and continental communities; encourage and expand intra African trade; understand, engage, network and explore partnerships with local ecosystem role-players.
The keynote speaker, Redempta Ayeyo, Small and Medium Size Advisor at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, indicated that the government is aware of the challenges entrepreneurs face in Kenya. She mentioned market access and finance to be the largest barriers for SME’s and said “The Ministry is in the process of finalizing policies to improve the access of procurement opportunities for SMEs, particularly those owned by women.” She further mentioned that the importance of moving entrepreneurs’ from the ideation stage towards commercialization their products.
“The national research fund is available to address this problem and we are always available to collaborate with stakeholders who are experts within the field to achieve this mandate.”
Mr. Vincent Wang’ombe, from the Ministry of ICT and Innovation further added to Ayeyo’s sentiments by emphasizing the importance of entrepreneurship in Kenya, and government’s commitment towards creating an enabling environment for their growth. He said “The unemployment rate in Kenya is currently at 40 percent, particularly affecting the youth. There are 800,000 Kenyan’s joining the workforce, 100,000 graduates and only 120,000 jobs are created annually. The formal job market is unable to absorb the youth, therefore it must be created by SMEs. Waiswa indicated that young people are therefore slowly participating in the global phenomenon called the Gig Economy. This phenomenon is described as an environment in which organizations contract independent workers for short-term engagements. However this will require an increase of connectivity across the country which the government has developed various interventions to achieve this mandate.”
SEA Africa conducted a short study to determine challenges entrepreneurs’ faced in the Kenyan ecosystem, Figure 1, demonstrates access to finance (80%), lack of market research (80%) and access to global markets (75%) as the top barriers.
Figure1: Challenges faced by entrepreneurs’ in Kenya
Figure 2 indicates what entrepreneurs’ believe is critical to scale their business, where emphasis is placed on a structured and efficient ecosystem (70%), access to markets regionally (65%) and enabling government policies (60%).
Figure 2: Business needs to scale businesses
Alesimo Mwanga, Research Executive at SEA Africa and representative of GEN South Africa said, “given these results the GEC2017 has arrived at a significant time in Africa.” The challenges faced by Kenyan entrepreneurs’ are similar across the continent. These results suggest critical focus areas in which ecosystem role players should consider in efforts to support SME development in Africa. Efforts to stimulate entrepreneurship in Africa should focus on regional integration, developing structured and efficient ecosystems and policies that stimulate support as well as growth of SMEs in the continent.
These issues and many more will be explored at GEC 2017.