New project to set up business growth hubs for women, youth

Plans are underway to establish business development centres at county and national levels to mentor women entrepreneurs.

The project, a brainchild of the Women In Business (WIB) Committee that is a wing of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), will also organise investment conferences at both government levels to showcase contribution of women to the economy and address the challenges facing them.

WIB committee chairperson Mary Muthoni said they aim at encouraging women business owners and other professionals to network with the chamber’s national and county chapters, and other organisations, to develop a business identity for themselves that will propel their agenda.

Among activities that WIB has lined up for 2018 include a stakeholders’ forum in January and an engagement with the Egypt Trade Mission in February.

In March, the women entrepreneurs will hold the International Women’s Day and engage county governments in the realisation of the 30 per cent procurement rule for women, youth and people with disabilities.

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“Our mission is to promote, assist and enhance economic and business development for all our members at both national and county chapters so as to stimulate wealth at all levels of government right from the communities they represent,” she said.

Ms Muthoni said women have a major role in economic growth if given a chance.

“Being the focal point of economic development, entrepreneurship can play an instrumental role in building the world. WIB, therefore, wishes to partner with stakeholders to foster the “business, innovation, development, investment and initiative” (Bidii) approach and mobilise women from the counties,” she said.

Ms Muthoni said the number of women entrepreneurs was growing by the day, with many others seeking to learn and network across the sectors to improve their businesses.

At the same time, WIB plans to set up an annual awards scheme to recognise the successes made by business women and organisations that support their business.

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“I welcome the decision to join us in building a joint programme for our two organisations, including generating support for various upcoming events. I hope we can expand our relationship as soon as possible and define collaboration measures,” said Ms Muthoni while addressing women entrepreneurs in Nairobi.

She said plans were underway to officially launch the Women in Business KNCCI division to strengthen county chapters and help in recruiting businesswomen.

Ms Muthoni said a decision by the Nairobi county government setting aside one in every three tenders for small-scale businesses managed by youth and women is the way to go in boosting growth.

“Nairobi county chamber is a base in regard to the support required by female entrepreneurs and is equally as one of the towns with the high gross domestic product,” she said.

Ms Muthoni lamented that despite women constituting almost 50 per cent of the world population and making substantial contribution to socio-economic development, their contribution has largely remained unrecognised and unnoticed in most developing and least developed countries.

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“The Women in Business division at the KNCCI intends to build on the existing legacy while empowering women at all levels of government, both national and county, through education and capacity building as we focus on innovative ways to cater for the potential that women have to grow the economy,” Ms Muthoni said.

Ms Muthoni cited the preference for multinationals and lack of access to financing as some factors blocking women from investing in the energy sector, for instance.

She said women had missed out on immense opportunities in high return sectors, currently dominated by big investors both at technical and service levels, because of failing to access tenders due to financial constraints.

“We need to change the perception that the sector is for big investors. It is also looked at as a men sector,” she added.

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