Kenya eyes continental free trade area with quality in SMEs

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The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has initiated Kenya Quality Award (KQA), a scheme aimed at promoting and entrenching a quality culture amongst Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Kenya.

This comes in the wake of increased efforts to improve the quality of local products to meet international standards, which will help Kenyans manufacturers and producers increase Kenyan exports to foreign markets.

The move is also as a strategy to prepare local businesses to tap into the Africa Continental Free Trade Area which is slowly taking shape.

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Designed to recognize MSMEs striving to produce quality product and which already have a valid Standardization Mark of Quality (SMark), the KQA programme will additionally assist MSMEs to initiate, develop and implement quality management systems to a status of certification.

Speaking during the KQA launch ceremony, Kebs acting managing director Lt. Col. (Rtd). Bernard Njiraini said: “We recognize both the opportunity and the profound responsibility that is ours to build capacities for MSMEs to develop formal quality models that will help them mature to effective sustainable quality management systems. Already, Kebs has disseminated information on the Kenya Quality Award to various stakeholders.”

“We expect more MSMEs to participate in the Kenya Quality Award because the resulting benefits will keep them in good standing as we look to export Kenyan products to the larger Africa Continental Free Trade Area,” he added.

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Some of the MSMEs that were recognised for being KQA pioneer participants during the launch ceremony include Lake Victoria Mineral Water Ltd., Kabianga Tea Factory Limited, Lovely Home Products, Rahma Ice, Krystalline Salt Ltd. SureWays Enterprises and Countryside Dairy Ltd.

Others are Mutole Enterprises, Amani Jipange, Mega Hygiene Systems Ltd., Mojo Marketing and Public Relations Company Ltd., Hiana Products Enterprise and Akimaa Africa Limited.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) 2016 National MSME survey data, MSMEs are estimated to contribute 28.5 per cent of the total economy in Kenya.

However, majority of Kenya’s MSMEs do not last beyond five years. In this respect, the KQA programme aims to assist MSMEs to remain viable, sustainable and in as far as is possible grow to large enterprises.

During the launch, Industry, Trade and Cooperatives Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya reiterated the government’s commitment in equipping MSMEs with the critical knowledge and skills in relation to the quality of their products, and the effectiveness of their processes to ensure that they can access the wider market.

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“I laud the commitment of the Kenya Bureau of Standards towards entrenching a quality culture in Kenya. With a consolidated and multi-sectorial approach, the government is committed to support this key sector as it recognizes the key role it plays in contributing to the economy and creating employment,” said Munya.

It is estimated that MSMEs contribute the largest share of the country’s GDP.There are about 1.56 million licensed MSMEs and 5.85 million unlicensed businesses in Kenya.

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92.2 per cent of these establishments are Micro while Small and Medium enterprises account for 7.1 per cent and 0.79 per cent respectively.

READ ALSO:Kenya: Women own half the 1.3 million MSMEs

The KQA pioneer participants were evaluated rigorously by independent judges using the Kenya Quality Award Criteria for Excellence, which measures an organization in five key areas including Process Management, Resources Management, Leadership, Customer and Market Focus, Society and Environmental Standards.

“We expect that an organization that uses the KQA criteria as a model for managing, will continue to create new values through a continuous process of self-innovation to transform its overall management systems into customer-oriented structures to improve the organization’s performance results,” Njiraini noted.

The launch of the Kenya Quality Award comes after the Ministry for Industry, Trade and Cooperatives launched the Industrialization Roadmap during the Second Intra-Commonwealth SME Trade Summit that was held in May 2019 in Nairobi.

The Industrialization Roadmap articulates the government’s priorities including improving the ease of doing business; supporting sectors for growth, skills, infrastructure and finance; unlocking the potential of MSMEs and developing a compelling Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) attraction plan.

Industrialization Principal Secretary Betty Maina said: “We should remember that the business world is forever changing. Consumers are demanding of quality for everything they purchase. Therefore, it is only by observing superior levels of quality in our products that we can beat the competition.”

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Martin Mwita is a business reporter based in Kenya. He covers equities, capital markets, trade and the East African Cooperation markets.

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