Last week while in the office the guys from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed up from nowhere, they wanted to know how we are doing and the progress we have made in the last two years. I later learnt that they were out there doing research on how small businesses are doing. So, I took the chance to ask them about one stat about small businesses that has been going around in the last few months. That 2.2 million small businesses failed or died in the last five years. They confirm that is true according to their records but is the reason they were doing another round to see if some of them came back or more have failed.
That number is worrying, especially for a country aspiring to be a model middle income nation. The bulk of jobs created in Kenya are by small businesses and the jua kali people. That is why as a country we should do all we can to ensure that people who take the risk to start their businesses in one way or another succeed. So, let take a second to look at what the Government has done in this front. The Government talk about making it easy to start a business in the country, that is well and good but the real challenge is always the environment where the business operate in after you start it.
The good folks in the Government seem to think that by making it easy to register the business then that is it and now there is of ease of doing business in Kenya is good. But that is far from it, businesses are failing because the environment is hostile to small businesses. This range from high taxes, corruption, financial constraints, unfair competition and many more. Have you ever wondered why there are not many success stories from the initiatives like Youth Fund, Uwezo Fund, Women? The reason is simple, even if you get such funding the environment does not support the growth of the small businesses.
The environment might not be that good but I am happy with the efforts of the private sector in trying to make it work regardless. In the last one year or so a number of Kenyan companies have taken initiatives aimed at helping and empowering young entrepreneurs. At first, it seemed to me that most of them were doing it as PR stunt especially because it looks cool to do so but then I thought, who cares about their intentions as long as they are helping young entrepreneurs to realize their dreams. The latest effort which need to be appreciated is by Safaricom Blaze BYOB, which saw the 19 years old Valentine Nekesa, walk away with grand prize of Ksh.5 Million. The amount includes Ksh. 3 million in capital, and Ksh. 2 million in the form of mentorship, financial advice and business support.
“I am elated for this endorsement of my growth during the time I spent on the show. I have learned how to bring out my leadership skills, and these have seen me make it to the finals. BLAZE BYOB has been an eye-opener for the Kenyan youth, and the country in general; I thank my fellow contestants for coming out and demonstrating that the country’s youth have what it takes to lead,” said Nekesa.
Nekesa who is part-time designer and model is now equipped to do her fashion business full time . With the money, she plans to buy sewing machines, rent a shop, buy quality fabric and hire employees who will be particularly talented and share her passion for fashion.
Safaricom did not let the number two and three on the competition go empty handed. The first runners up, Safe Joe Mugweru walked away with Ksh.1,000,000 while David Kimani won Ksh.700,000. They both expected to invest the money in their businesses. We look at what they are up to in the second version of this article, so stay tune for that