Africa
BAROROT
Entrepreneurs
FILE
Gikomba
Gikomba Market
Granted
Kenya
Kisumu
Nairobi
Time

Time to rethink financial solutions for enterprises

Through alliances and partnerships, the financial services sector can deliver solutions in a market-driven approach or community investments.

Time to rethink financial solutions for enterprises

Financial services are key to enterprise, and have to not only be relevant, but also constantly available. FILE PHOTO | NMG

For traders at Gikomba Market in Nairobi, fires are a regular occurrence. Almost every other year, a mysterious fire strikes, razes down their structures and wares. It disrupts their businesses and sets them back; but just as they are beginning to recover, it strikes again. These fires don’t just destroy property and business merchandise but also livelihoods, families and dreams. Such are the perils of small-scale traders of Gikomba, and other markets across the country – such as Kibuye in Kisumu. Apart from the seasonal fires, they also endure working conditions that are less than conducive, where basic social amenities are a luxury; and access to these markets, during the rainy season is a struggle, thanks to poor road network, drainage and waste disposal.The sheds from which they ply their trade barely shield them from the vagaries of the weather. Despite the neglect, these markets, and the entrepreneurs who ply their trade in it, play a huge role in the economy. Small and Medium Entreprises (SMEs) contribute 33 per cent of Kenya’s GDP and employs in excess of 10 million Kenyans.The value of economic activity is staggering and the impact it has on the ecosystem is great. This means that it is a sector that is too critical to be ignored.Granted, it is the role of government to ensure basic social amenities are available in public places, such as markets.

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However, the task of addressing the challenges that entrepreneurs face is for all – government, private sector, non-state actors, among others. The Gikomba ecosystem has rich representation from the private sector that cannot fold their arms and walk away.In the financial services industry, for instance, many banks have set up shop in this area, making it one of the most heavily banked parts of the country. This is an indication of the huge potential it has, despite the challenges it is mired in.In as much as the government takes lead in ensuring a favourable policy environment, these private sector players have vested interests in the success of the entrepreneurs too. If business is good, the upside is for the entire ecosystem; and when it is bad, the downside is for all.Time is nigh for the private sector to engage in progressive conversations on how to make entrepreneurs’ tomorrow better.What do we need to do as a country to facilitate entrepreneurs – the pearl of Kenya, who are driving economic transformation? Enterprise is the best bet to growth in Africa. Thus, it needs to be supported to unlock its potential and drive inclusive growth.Innovative solutions such as insurance are key to safeguard the entrepreneurs’ hard-earned and built businesses from common shocks, such as the Gikomba fires that ever so frequently disrupt their operations. This is the only way entrepreneurs will have the confidence and guts to build their businesses for scale.Alongside the oft-talked about need to enhance access to credit, enterprises need to be empowered to enhance their financial management skills. This is critical, for if one does not understand the language of money.Truth is, even if you made truckloads of money, you would not know how to keep it if you do not understand its language. It is time to rethink the financial services’ sector approach to working with the enterprise community.Financial services are key to enterprise, and have to not only be relevant, but also constantly available. It is time to rejig the model to offer beyond banking and financial services. Banking is meant to solve real problems. Whereas traditional bankers are about pushing product, banks of the future offer solutions such 24/7 access to banking services to SMEs via innovative solutions.This is the only way to facilitate enterprises to drive Kenya’s growth. Then there are the hardware challenges that support success of business. Through alliances and partnerships, the financial services sector can deliver solutions in a market-driven approach or community investments.

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