Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continue to play a pivotal role in driving economic development and reducing unemployment rates in Kenya. These enterprises, often referred to as the backbone of the economy, are key drivers of job creation and poverty alleviation.
Despite their significant contribution, many SMEs face numerous challenges such as limited access to resources, lack of business networks, and insufficient support systems. To address these challenges and unleash the full potential of SMEs, it is crucial for professional associations in Kenya to play an active role in supporting them.
Here are five ways in which professional associations can assist SMEs and grow them as future clients.
Sharing Knowledge and Skills
Professional associations are well-positioned to offer specialised training and capacity-building programmes tailored to the needs of owners of SMEs. The membership of these associations consist of industry experts who possess valuable knowledge and experiences, which can be shared through workshops, seminars, and mentorship programmes.
Access to training and skills development will equip owners of SMEs with the necessary tools to navigate business challenges and drive their expansion and sustainable growth. To encourage its membership to voluntarily share their knowledge and skills to SMEs, professional associations need to award individual members Continuous Professional Development (CPD) points.
Facilitating Networking and Collaboration
One of the biggest hurdles for owners of SMEs is lack of access to networks and collaborations. Professional associations can serve as a platform for entrepreneurs to connect, share ideas, and forge partnerships.
They can organise industry-specific events, conferences, and business forums where business owners interact with potential service providers and prospective customers. Such networking initiatives foster knowledge exchange, market expansion, and access to valuable resources.
Advocacy and Representation
Professional associations possess the influence and collective strength to advocate for favourable policies and regulations that directly impact SMEs. These associations need to actively engage with government bodies and policymakers to champion the interests of SMEs. They have the capacity to represent concerns and advocate for reforms in the SME sector.
For instance, professional associations can lobby for reduced bureaucracy, simplified licensing procedures, and improved access to finance. Through such advocacy efforts, professional associations can create an enabling environment that supports growth of SMEs. Benefits from SMEs will trickle down to the membership of the associations in terms of employment opportunities and future market for professional services.
Access to Financial Resources
Access to finance is a critical factor for the survival and growth of SMEs. Professional associations can collaborate with financial institutions to create financial products and mechanisms specifically tailored to demand-driven needs of SMEs. For instance, the associations can establish partnerships with microfinance institutions to provide accessible and affordable financing options.
Professional associations in Kenya can leverage their collective bargaining power and networks to bridge the financing gap and strengthen SMEs with the necessary capital to thrive.
Knowledge Sharing and Research
Professional associations can play a vital role in facilitating knowledge sharing and conducting research that benefits SMEs. They can commission studies, surveys, and market analyses to identify emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities in specific sectors. The findings can then be disseminated to owners of SMEs to enable them to make informed decisions on adapting to market demands, and staying competitive.
In addition, professional associations in Kenya can establish resource centres, online platforms, and publications to share best practices, success stories, and relevant information. Such sharing initiatives will foster a culture of learning and continuous improvement among business owners. Professional associations are urged to come together and support SMEs to enhance Kenya’s economic growth.
The writer is HRD Consultant and Author of Transition into Retirement; [email protected]