By Maurice Momanyi
Kenyan small and medium enterprises have been advised to take advantage of the forthcoming 23rd MSME Exhibition and Trade Fair which will be held in Bujumbura, Burundi next month, to grow their businesses.
Speaking during the unveiling of the national organizing committee for the said Trade Fair to be held from 5th to 15th December 2023, Co-operatives and Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Development Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said the Expo would help them expand their reach into new markets, share new technologies, and strengthen regional integration.
Citing the EAC’s expanded market size of 300 million people and an estimated GDP of US$250 billion resulting from the recent entry of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into the bloc, CS Chelugui noted that it adds significant impetus to the push to increase Intra-EAC trade.
Noting that the EAC region now stretches from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, making it competitive and easy to access the larger African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Chelugui said this is a rich market for Kenyan MSMEs products and services, adding that it would enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through the exploitation of opportunities for production at scale, continental market access, and better reallocation of resources.
“Burundi is a virgin market with immense unexploited opportunities and I encourage Kenyan MSMEs to take advantage of the excellent relations between the two countries to establish a foothold and exploit the emerging opportunities in terms of trade and investment. Possible areas of investment and market penetration include agro-processing, education, health, finance and banking, energy, light manufacturing, and construction,” Chelui said adding that Burundi is also a regional hub and entry point to Eastern DRC and the hinterland of the greater Central Africa region, thus an indicator of a potentially vast market that Kenyan exports can fully exploit.
This year’s trade fair, Chelugui said, serves to give exceptional commercial prospects for showcasing regional brands of both goods and services, providing further momentum to the EAC integration process.
The theme of this year’s Expo, “Connecting East Africa MSMEs to enhance Intra-EAC Trade,” resonates well with Kenya’s push for ‘Buy Kenya Build Kenya’ while also capturing the developmental aspirations of the EAC region as it adds impetus to member countries’ industrial initiatives and recognizes the important role that the development of domestic capabilities plays in the development of the regional economies.
“The theme equally resonates with the East African Industrialization Strategy target to increase intra-regional manufacturing of exports relative to total manufactured imports in the region to at least 25 percent by 2032. Indeed, with our economies just emerging from the shocks caused by the recent global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic; it is therefore imperative that the business recovery trajectory is maintained by way of harnessing local sourcing and deepening the value chain frameworks among other strategies,” Chelugui noted.
By deepening the value chain frameworks, he added, Kenyan industries and organizations will definitely identify and group their own business functions into strategic primary and secondary activities; understand linkages and dependencies between different activities and areas in the business, and understand core competencies and areas of improvement.
The Expo will present an opportunity for over 300 Kenyan MSMEs to further understand the emerging market dynamics and business practices to facilitate business linkages for increased trade.
“It will not only avail a forum for showcasing what Kenya has to offer to the regional market but also play a leading role in facilitating trade and business exchanges among participating countries while at the same time offering an exciting platform for launching new and improved technologies targeting both the local and regional markets I would encourage the participating Kenyan entrepreneurs to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the platform to share and learn from each other, create new business links, launch new products and services, and undertake test marketing as well as enhance the brand and corporate image of products and enterprises from the EAC region,” he said.
On his part, chairman of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) James Mureu hailed the Expo as one that plays a pivotal role in not only Kenya’s but also the region’s economic growth.
Micro and Small Enterprises Authority (MSEA) Chief Executive Henry Rithaa Mwenda, whose body is mandated to spearhead and co-ordinate Kenya’s participation in this trade fair, reaffirmed that he will ensure participating MSMEs are fairly selected from across the 47 counties to ensure a successful event and fruitful business engagements and outcomes.
Over 1500 participating MSMEs are expected at the 10-day event, not only to showcase their products and innovative services but also to exhibit and share experiences on some of their life-changing innovations and creativity that helped them to navigate the current economic strains amidst stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs).