Kenya’s 13th parliament is now pushing for the establishment of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) as an independent ministry as they propel the need to tackle unemployment rate in the country.
During the debate session on November 9, Members of Parliament discussed the development of a unified national policy for the SMEs, a motion sponsored by Dagoreti North MP. Beatrice Elachi.
Elachi cited political mischief, arguing that SMEs are currently recognised in at least two ministries; Ministry of Trade and Industrialisation.
“Can the government put together different policies that scattered all over in these ministries. Can we put it together and take it to the ministry of SME?” asked Elachi.
The sector, popularly known as Jua Kali is today Kenya’s biggest employer at 80 percent, about 15 million Kenyans.
It is segmented under categories spread out in value chains ranging from agriculture, trade, manufacturing, apparels, IT, transport, the creative economy, education among others.
Previous support by the government to SME has merely been a knee-jerk reaction in form of skewed funding and tokenism and the 13th Parliament has initiated drumbeats with the need to echo the potential SME sector exhibits to make Kenyan goods more competitive in the global market.
Supporting the motion, Funyula MP Wilberforce Oundo Mudenyo slammed the previous administrations for failing to leverage the informal sector to address ballooning unemployment rate in the country.
“In each year budget, we never invest any resources towards improving the Jua Kali sector. It has not been done by the previous administrations, and I doubt if the current one will try,” said Mudenyo.
This, according to three-time MP, has perpetuated the mentality of informality and failure to make reference to improved quality of Kenyan products.
He acknowledged the fact that Kenya has failed to compete with imports because millions of Kenyans spearheaded by politicians have enslaved their minds with Jua Kali mentality without caring to improve the sector.
Mudenyo refuted the bottom-up economic model by President William Ruto, saying it won’t liberate the minds of millions of Kenyans at the bottom of the pyramid since they have been made victims of the under-cared sector whom a number of politicians have used for political expedience.
“If a student is at the bottom of score sheet, you don’t sympathise with that student, you invest in that student. Take the student on a mentorship programme, do not sympathise with the student and pump cash into the student so that the student ends up becoming an election or a political tool.”
Elachi in her motion argues SMEs have the capacity to leapfrog Kenya to a middle-income economy as witnessed in other economies around the world.”
She hopes that with the political goodwill and strong commitment, they would deliver the needed growth for the realization of steady and sustainable economic growth.