KEPSA Initiative Launch
On Tuesday, March 8, 2022, the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) held “The U.S. - Kenya SME Trade Initiative Program Launch” with the Kenyan Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). This event represents the official launch of the U.S. - Kenya SME Trade Initiative. The initiative recognizes the critical role that SMEs play in U.S. and Kenyan trade, and it seeks to expand trade and investment between American and Kenyan Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through partnership, information sharing, training, logistics, financing, and more.
Florie Liser, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, delivered the opening remarks. She detailed the overarching goal of the U.S. - Kenya SME Trade Initiative, “to provide a unique platform to facilitate American and Kenyan SME business linkage and partnerships. The program will provide support U.S. and Kenyan minority, women, youth, and diaspora owned businesses to access the Kenyan and the U.S. market.”
Remarks were also provided by KEPSA CEO Carole Kariuki, who emphasized KEPSA’s role as the apex body of the private sector. KEPSA represents over one million businesses, a substantial proportion being SMEs. Ms. Kariuki stressed the role SMEs play in the Kenyan economy, which employ over 80% of the working population in Kenya and contribute to 33% of the gross domestic product. With SMEs accounting for 83.6% of total employment created in 2019, the initiative aims to provide SMEs with the technical and financial resources to develop and grow their business ventures in the United States.
Also present at the event was Jaswinder Bedi, Chairman at Kenya Export Promotion & Branding Agency (KEPROBA) and Vice-Chair KEPSA; Sam Mwale, KEPSA Advisor and US Representative; Miguel Estien, National Director for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA); and SMEs among other attendees from Kenya and the United States.
Mr. Bedi, Chairman of KEPROBA, reinforced the key role SMEs play in the Kenyan economy. Despite the United States being the third largest export market for Kenya, there is still a trade imbalance of 83 million dollars as of 2019 between the two countries. He emphasized the importance of SMEs in decreasing this imbalance and KEPROBA’s ongoing efforts to ensure products are export ready for the US market.
The initiative will initially select 25 SMEs from the U.S. to provide them with information on opportunities in Kenya and the broader East African market. We plan to introduce them to U.S. programs (like MBDA’s Export Centers, SBA, Exim bank, DFC, and others) that can provide them with the technical and financial resources to develop and grow their business ventures in Kenya. Vice versa will be done for 25 SMEs from Kenya with respect to the American market.
Mr. Estien, National Director of MBDA, explained MBDA’s four export centers and their mandate to connect minority businesses in the US to larger markets and provide them with technical assistance. The MBDA continues to offer the necessary resources for international trade, as minority businesses are four times more likely to export than non-minority firms.
In her closing remarks, President and CEO Liser expressed CCA’s continued mandate to support the economic development of African nations by continuing to provide a platform for discussions on U.S. - Africa collaboration for economic growth. She thanked KEPSA for their partnership and stressed the importance of this initiative to scale up U.S. - Kenya trade, investment, and business through the power of SMEs.