By Murimi Gitari, 10 May 2021
Small businesses face challenges in accessing markets
Manufacturing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have today called for financing to enable them take advantage of opportunities in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
This was during a live session, hosted by Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) and Syspro Africa.
Speaking during the event, Director for Chemicals and Minerals, Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development, Mr Julius K. Kirima noted that for SMEs to trade across the continent, they have to adhere to policies and regulations put in place.
“Government’s policies and regulations seek to ensure that all products and services adhere to the highest standards, for them to gain access to other countries.” He said.
Senior Advisor, Africa Export – Import Bank, Emeka Uzomba noted the importance of financing trade, to enhance market access.
“With the commencement of trade under AfCFTA, came challenges, which hinder small businesses across Africa, from reaping its benefits. We, therefore, need to create our own solutions, to finance businesses to take advantage of opportunities presented by different trade agreements,” noted Mr Uzomba.
“As Afrexim, which was established by Africans for Africa to finance trade in the continent, we recognize that funding remains a key component, to enable us to fully take advantage of opportunities,” he added.
Syspro Africa Head of Solutions, Ms Dierdre Fryer explained that the coming into force of AfCFTA is disruptive and calls on businesses to adjust their operations.
“Technology and development under multilateral trade are inseparable. Harnessing technology, by both the business community and participating governments, shall enable the swift movement of goods, services, money and even skills in Africa. Automation of systems also has the potential to significantly reduce costs,” observed Ms Fryer.
KAM Head of Consulting, Ms Joyce Njogu noted that SMEs in the country face unique challenges, which calls for tailor-made solutions, to enhance their growth.
“SMEs continue to face barriers which hinder them from accessing both local and international markets. For instance, financial institutions consider them as high-risk borrowers, hence are reluctant to lend to them. I urge all stakeholders, in government and financial services to tap into this gap, since SMEs offer enormous potential and a huge customer base, due to their large number across the country. Lending to SMEs shall enhance their competitiveness, thus creating a level-playing field between them and products manufactured in other markets,” highlighted Ms Njogu.
While the launch of AfCFTA on 1st January 2021 symbolized the commencement of trading under preferential terms within Africa, there exists some challenges that hinder its implementation. Some of these include under-developed transport and logistics networks across the continent, overlapping membership to trade blocs, non-uniform order in the clearance of logistics, unfamiliar customs and administrative procedures and transit policies of goods across different Regional Economic Communities (RECs) among countries with no functional trade arrangements.