We must thank the President for creating time to meet SMEs during the one-on-one SME Presidential round table at the Strathmore. As a mentor to thousands of SMEs, this was a great move by all means. Keep up Mr President. Off course the President has been holding many round table meetings with big titans over the years and his gesture to seat with the ‘Wanjiku’ SMEs was the best thing this year.
The president was able to hear issues faced by SMEs first hand without any sugar coating by his advisors who are technocrats who may also be inhibited from accessing the real situations on the ground. As an entrepreneur, author, an SMEs mentor and a businessman who failed 15 times during my 20 years Entrepreneurship journey, I have some advice to the president.
I call them; the 5 strategies that the President can do to boost SMEs survival, growth and prosperity:
Let the funding be available through several sources. The president can give tax waivers for banks that support entrepreneurs or SMEs. Let’s not go the Uwezo or Youth fund way, those ones, according to my assessment have failed terribly. This could be an agenda for future meeting with SMEs where the latter will stipulate what they want and how this funding can be availed and managed easily.
2. Tax waiver to SMEs that are less than 3 years since inception
The president can involve the SMEs themselves to set the criteria. From where I sit as an SME mentor and as an entrepreneur, the president through his Government can place this offer to any startup that employs more than 5 people; those that have good books of account or just basic books of accounts.
Such SMEs should have a long-term growth plan to create jobs, innovate and add value to the society. This will stop the death of SMEs which was recorded at 2.2 million between 2012 and 2016 according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
3. Have quarterly round table meetings with SMEs
Going forward, the President can seriously consider holding a quarterly round table meeting exclusively with SMEs. Two (2) Representatives can be drawn from all the 47 counties with an exception of Nairobi County that can have 20 representatives due to its huge number of SMEs.
These representatives must demonstrate that they represent to larger SME players who cannot all have a single sitting. Let us not bring bosses again on this SME roundtable forums. The president should listen, motivate and encourage these job creators. Remember SMEs create over 75% of the jobs according to his Excellency the president. We only need 1 million more SMEs and at the rate of 5 staff per SME, 5 million jobs can then be easily created.
4. Mentorship programs
The big boys who own big companies can mentor SMEs easily. This appeal needs to be made by the President himself and mentorship can be backed up by tax benefits whereby if Optiven is mentoring 100 SMEs, the cost incurred needs to be tax deductible and not as a donation to empower the society.
Another way to encourage mentorship is to award those bigger SMEs owners to mentor others. Let us not only honor old folks with medals they will never utilize. Although many of them have done proud as a nation, it is the younger folks that need to be encouraged upwards.
The President can honor younger business owners who are transforming Kenya through job creation. An organization like Optiven Group has a dream of creating 30, 000 jobs by the year 2030; a vision that is so far demonstrable. How can such be encouraged and supported?
5. Government to be more hands-on
The president talked about rolling sleeves, removing suits to visit SME dens like Gikomba. Yes, this is the way to go. Loop in media to support such initiatives. A good example is how the President has started the monthly cleaning initiative.
Such will encourage the population and create a big movement of doing community work, registering SMEs to do community work in addition to doing business. He should borrow such a model to do impromptu visits to as SMEs in the 47 counties. Leadership is all about sacrifice and a great leader is the one who develops people and we absolutely President Uhuru is a great leader.
George Wachiuri is an Entrepreneur, a Philanthropist, a Motivational Speaker and the CEO, Optiven Group. To get more details on how you can invest with Optiven Ltd. Kindly talk to us via