The Africa SME Finance Forum 2018 was held in a 2-day conference,15th– 16th May, 2018, at Kempinski Hotel, Nairobi under the theme “Harnessing Innovations.” The forum was held so as to examine some of the key challenges faced by MSMEs in Africa, as well as explore innovative solutions, both regionally-grown and globally-grown, that promote sustainable growth of youth entrepreneurship and enhance access to financing for MSMEs.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Ruth Dueck-Mbeba, Senior Program Manager, Financial Inclusion at Mastercard Foundation, highlighted on the work they have done with IFC on expanding financial inclusion in Africa, adding that they have had a reach of over 7 million digital financial services users. She went on to say that Mastercard Foundation is supporting African youth to increase youth employment thus reducing poverty.
KEPSA CEO, Ms. Carole Kariuki, gave the keynote address on ‘Getting Women into High Growth Businesses in Africa, including Tech Industry’. She started by noting that Kenya is fast emerging among the most innovative and enterprising countries in the continent; adding that it is home to worlds’ leading innovations such as MPesa, which has greatly revolutionized the mobile money transfer space, banking and e-commerce, among other developments.
“In Kenya, and indeed most of the developing countries in Africa, SMEs play a very crucial role in the economy. Over 90% of all established businesses are SMEs that account for over three quarters of all jobs in the economy. However, the overall contribution to the economy is below potential at 28.5% compared to developed countries such as Germany, where SMEs contribute 75% to the GDP, and 50% in the UK and Singapore,” she said.
Job creation and economic growth through private sector development have become primary areas of focus for policy makers around the world, including Africa, where around 20% of its 1.246 billion population are youth, aged between 15-24 years, and about two fifths of them are in the 0-14 age bracket.
As more youth enter the workforce, they are known to face increasing difficulties in procuring employment. The traditional sources of opportunity, governments and large corporations, in general are not hiring at the same levels, if at all. As such, SME entrepreneurship is seen as an important option for creating sustainable livelihoods for this segment of the population.
‘Enhancing access to affordable financing through a well-functioning SME lending market, and leverage on emerging trends such as technology to provide innovative solutions. According to IFC, the future of lending is digital finance, therefore we must get our Banks and other financial service providers to expand and develop customized products and services to meet SMEs financial needs,’ Ms. Kariuki said.
She concluded by pledging KEPSA’s committed to ensuring inclusive and sustainable social economic development through empowerment of women.