KEPSA CEO Carol Karuga in a past event. KEPSA and Mastercard on Thursday launched a fund to support Kenyan MSMEs.

The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) and the Mastercard Foundation on Thursday launched a fund to provide loans to a maximum of 400 Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Kenya whose businesses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement, the two organizations stated the loan facility will be interest-free and repayable by up to six months.

The fund is created through support from the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program and is targeting businesses that find it difficult to access financing from formal lending institutions such as banks and micro-financers. Priority will be given to businesses run by women and young people.

KEPSA will carry out the screening of the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises to ensure they meet the criteria for eligibility to access the loans.

Loans will range in size with an expected average size of Ksh1 million.

“These are bad times for everybody and a situation like this hits MSMEs the hardest. They already operate in a difficult environment, and research has shown that most MSMEs have been subjected to a tough operating environment for the last two years, and you can see how such a situation would pan out for them,” KEPSA’s CEO, Carole Karuga said.

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She explained the fund and the accompanying program is intended to strengthen the MSMEs’ capacity while KEPSA would provide technical support, such as helping the businesses adopt digital solutions.

In addition to screening the MSMEs, KEPSA will roll out a virtual SME Hub and create a business recovery hub to support the SMEs by offering business development services.

“COVID-19 has affected my business negatively in terms of work consistency and revenue and as a result fewer working hours for my virtual employees. As a business that relies 90 percent on the outsourcing of transcription work, clients are cutting costs and my service offering is at the top of the list to be cut. Through business development services, the solution would be to remodel the business to offer skills that will be in demand now and beyond the pandemic,’’ said Frida Mwangi, Founder of KaziRemote Limited.

KEPSA and the Mastercard Foundation intend for the program to; help maintain jobs and livelihoods, identify new business opportunities for women and young people and reduce Gender-Based Violence by enhancing the capacity of women-led and owned businesses to increase revenue and income.

The fund is also aimed at prioritizing the health and safety of employees, communities, and healthcare workers as well as ensuring business and supply chain continuity.

Mastercard Foundation Regional Head, Eastern and Southern Africa, Daniel Hailu said, “MSMEs are the backbone of the economy and they need support now more than ever. Through the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program, we are working with our partners to deliver tailored support to MSMEs that will sustain their activities and continue to provide opportunities for dignified work.”

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Samuel Gitonga is a senior reporter at BUSINESS TODAY. Email: [email protected]

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