On 7th September 2018 I had the honour and pleasure to attend the 6th SME Conference organized by Strathmore Enterprise Development Centre (SEDC) themed “Enhancing Sustainability Through Innovation – SME Positioning in the Big 4 Agenda”.
It was encouraging and inspiring to be in a room full of experts, policy makers and entrepreneurs, all of them sharing the dream of taking Kenyan SMEs to the next level.
Part of the discussion on how SMEs in the manufacturing sector can play a role with specific reference to the Government plans within the Big 4 Agenda yielded the following propositions:
- VALUE ADDITION – Map tea, coffee, sugar, meat, dairy, crops, oil, leather, textile etc. and identify opportunities to take advantage of whether in processing or packaging. I was excited to see dried ripe mango flakes that were being show cased by a conference exhibitor –Sweet and Dried that deals with dried fruits, dried vegetables and ethnic flours all the way from Chuka- Tharaka Nithi County https://www.sweetndried.com/
2. AUTOMATION – Invest in some automation to enable high volume processing to meet market demands. This allows you to manufacture more products with fewer resources, remain competitive and increase your efficiency with the inclusion of a lean manufacturing approach.
3. BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT – Be part of the business development ecosystem (Incubators & Accelerators) like Kenya Industrial Estates (KIE) which facilitate development and incubation of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) countrywide by establishing industrial parks, providing credit and business development services (BDS) in a sustainable manner.
4. INNOVATE AROUND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES – Digitalization is a powerful engine to scale up and focus on new concepts that can enable us to cater for a market with unfulfilled needs by creating for them customized solutions.
SMEs can draw many potential benefits from digital technologies, such as better access to skills, talent or markets, better collaboration and communication, or greater access to new technologies and applications.
My dream for my business is to be part of Industry 4.0 and create what has been called a “SMART FACTORY” which includes cyber-physical systems.
In conclusion, this transformation of taking Kenyan SMEs to the next level is a 2 way journey:
- Long term financing through government initiatives is necessary for the expansion of business operations and to provide leverage for business opportunities that arise from time to time. On the other hand as SMEs we have to start getting financier ready and compliant by seeking advisory services to prepare us for this.
- A conducive policy, legal and regulatory environment is necessary for industrial transformation. SMEs also need to be part of the policy discussion. Participation in forums will help lend our voice and unique needs to the greater policy and regulatory pattern when they are still at the formative stage.