Absa Kicks Off A Journey To Empower Entrepreneurs In Counties

by Business Watch Team

Absa Bank Kenya has kicked off County Empowerment Forums that seek to explore the business opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and boost growth for the sector across the country amidst the prevailing challenging operating landscape.

The forums host SME customers under the Absa Business Club, with the first session organized in Nakuru County bringing together over 400 entrepreneurs across the Central and Rift regions.

The last three years since COVID-19 have been particularly challenging for this sector due to the significant constraints resulting from the global operating environment, including supply chain disruptions, rising inflation, exchange rate volatility, and rising interest rates.

Speaking during the forum in Nakuru, Absa Bank Kenya Head of SME Banking Susan Situma emphasized the importance of such forums to empower the sector and build the resilience of the business community to elevate their enterprises in recognition of the immense contribution that MSMEs make to Kenya’s economy.

“As a financial institution, our corporate purpose is to empower Africa’s tomorrow together, one story at a time. Everything we do revolves around empowering our customers to elevate their businesses, contribute to their growth, and positively contribute to our economy. This underscores our ongoing commitment to nurturing the vibrant SME sector through different interventions, including strategic county engagement tours such as this one. These efforts are central to our strategy for driving economic innovation and transformation, aligning with the government initiatives to enhance the SME sector, spur economic growth, and create jobs for our young people,” said Ms Situma.

According to projections by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics for 2023, Nakuru County is home to 2.35 million people. The county’s input to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 4.9 percent, according to the 2021 Gross County Product (GCP) report. This positions Nakuru as the fourth leading contributor in the country and a hub for the micro, small, and medium enterprises sector in the region. The County is home to a vibrant business community with a diverse portfolio of businesses ranging from agro-processing, industrial manufacturing, transport, textile, trade, and tourism.

Speaking at the event, the Deputy County Governor of Nakuru H.E. David Kones, lauded efforts by Absa Bank to bring together the SME sector, a critical sector that employs close to 50 percent of the country’s workforce and contributes up to 33 percent of Kenya’s GDP.

“I acknowledge the role played by banks and other financial institutions, like Absa Bank, for their thoughtful decision to provide us with a platform such as this to learn and build a network to invigorate our MSMEs. It is my conviction that the sector, with the support of banking and financial institutions programs, will go a long way in assisting the County Government of Nakuru in achieving its goals, strategies and programs. We are particularly keen on financial, legal, institutional and legislative support,” said the Deputy Governor.

Other partners at the event included the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI), the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), the Nakuru Traders Association, Nakuru Motor Deals, and other agencies supporting the SMEs agenda in Nakuru County.

Last year, Absa Bank committed KES100 billion to support SMEs across various value chains over the next three years.Apart from access to finance, Business Club members have access to market information, access to local and global markets for products and services as well as coaching and mentorship and business networking to scale their businesses.

The Bank plans to hold similar SMEs empowerment forums in Kisumu, Mombasa, Machakos, Mount Kenya, and the coast regions.

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