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Revolving Fund For Loans Empowering Thousands of SMEs in County


Kisumu County Grapples with Low Tax Compliance by SMEs

ASK THE EXPERTS: How To Network the Right Way!


Bank Financing Big Project Targets 50 Million Women in Africa



Word from the Publisher...........................................................Pg 4 Murang’a County In Kshs 1 billion Road Rehabilitation Programme.................................................................................Pg 7 World Bank Research Challenges Counties to Triple Infrastructure Funding ..............................................................Pg 9 County Focus Kisumu County Grapples with Low Tax Compliance by SMEs......................................................................................Pg 11 Cover Story Kiambu County Bets Big With Biashara Fund..........................Pg 14 Ask the Experts: Ms Frida Owinga How to Network the Right Way...............................................Pg 18 Exclusive Interview with Safaricom’s Head of Innovation SMEs Must Identify needs that Induce Innovation.................Pg 21 International Bank Financing Big Project Targets 50 Million Women in Africa.....................................................................................Pg 26 Opinion Rising Customer Service Demands Forcing Changes in Business Dynamics................................................................Pg 27 SME Profile: Digital Marketing Agency Canvas Media.................................Pg 31

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WORD FROM THE PUBLISHER AQUARIUS MEDIA Editorial Director Patrick Mwangi Editorial/ Marketing Coordinator Caleb Mutua Writers Wanjiru Kariuki Ambrose Matata Sammy Grey Design and Layout Aquarius Media Limited Business Executive Stanley Kinyua For all editorial/ Marketing and Subscription inquiries please contact: The General Manager Aquarius Media PO Box 10668-00100, Nairobi, No.6 Kabiru Court, Daidai Road, South B, Tel: +254 773 635 416, Email: The editor welcomes comments on articles carried in this publication. Send your comments, questions and suggestions to All correspondence to the editor is assumed to be intended for publication. Aquarius Media Limited admits no liability for unsolicited articles or pictures. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily shared by Aquarius Media Limited.

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he predominant business in Kenya is an MSME (micro, small and medium enterprise), something that is likely to remain so for a long time to come. Indeed, Government policy documents continue to identify MSMEs as a key driver for growth in the Kenyan economy, as well as creation of jobs. MSMEs continue to face a host of challenges. These challenges stymie the growth of the average MSME so that it takes forever to stabilize, and another eternity to get on a growth trajectory, if at all. The key issues that militate against growth of MSMEs are lack of financing, lack of information and poor business skills. In most cases, providers of financing do not provide information plat-

forms or training in business skills. On the other hand, those providing either business information or training in business skills do not provide financing. Further, most of the financing available in the market, mainly bank loans, is mostly inaccessible, unaffordable or inappropriate for the growth needs of MSMEs. It, therefore, behoves the Government to provide avenues through which these challenges can be addressed, and the various business funds that have been launched by the Government are a critical intervention in this endeavor. It is very encouraging that county governments like the Kiambu County government have decided to intervene to assist MSMEs tackle these challenges. Kiambu County has established a fund for entrepreneurs among the youth, women and People With Disabilities. It would provide an even bigger boost to growth of businesses in Kenya if more county governments established such funds to assist MSMEs. As counties develop, the bulk of MSMEs will be hosted there. County governments must,

therefore, start thinking about creating an enabling environment for business to be started, and to flourish. This is not just being altruistic on their part, but the counties that become vibrant centres for businesses stand to benefit a lot from the employment that will be created, as well as levies and taxes from the entrepreneurs. The needs are great. Many young people have no other recourse other than to become businesspeople to fend for themselves as the marketplace for jobs remains highly competitive. However, counties must not sideline a whole section of MSMEs the way that the central government has done. These are the businesses that are run by men who have outgrown their youth, and who continue to be discriminated against in benefitting from these business funds because they are, well, men. These people are also critical factors in creating jobs and wealth. They face the same challenges as those facing the entrepreneurs these business funds are targeting. They too deserve support.

Patrick Mwangi As counties develop, the bulk of MSMEs will be hosted there. County governments must, therefore, start thinking about creating an enabling environment for business to be started, and to flourish.

Chief Executive Officer Aquarius Media Limited

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Murang’a County in Kshs 1 Billion Road Rehabilitation Programme Farmers and Small Businesses Major Beneficiaries of Improved Roads By Ambrose Matata


major Kshs 1 billion road rehabilitation project by Murang’a County is set to give a big boost to farmers and small business owners in that county. The project was launched in August 2016 by the Governor of Murang’a County, Mr Mwangi wa Iria (pictured), when he commissioned 35 tractors for the project. The rehabilitation programme will include grading, gravelling and opening of new roads, as well as construction of bridges. The project will provide job opportunities to over 350 young people. Speaking during the launch, the governor expressed his readiness to come to the rescue of business men and women who have for a long time incurred heavy losses due to bad roads. “Good roads will enhance the trans-

port of farm produce to the market and save farmers from losses which they used to incur due to bad roads and limited accessibility,” said Governor wa Iria. He added that increased accessibility within Murang’a will spur economic growth and attract potential investors to the county. Murang’a County is associated with dairy farming, and the programme comes at a time when Murang’a Cooperative pays KShs 120 million monthly to farmers for their produce at a price of KShs 35 per litre. The programme is expected to boost the volume of milk supplied to the cooperatives, leading to increased earnings by farmers. The public will be involved in the process of identifying the roads which will be set for rehabilitation.

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Good roads will enhance the transport of farm produce to the market and save farmers from losses which they used to incur due to bad roads and limited accessibility.

Mr John Ndung’u, the Kamahuha Boda Boda Sacco chairman, who spoke during the launch, said that the road rehabilitation programme would boost accessibility, leading to increased daily earnings. “Many of our members and their passengers have been involved in accidents due to bad roads. We now hope that this number will go down after the

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rehabilitation programme,” he said. Murang’a County has a population of 942,581, as per the 2009 Census. The county has seven constituencies and 35 wards that cover an area of 2,558 sq km. Murang’a is home to the expansive Aberdare Forest which is a major tourist attraction and one of Kenya’s water

towers. The main cash crops are tea, coffee and macadamia. The County has strived to provide an enabling environment to its residents, mostly farmers, by providing free Batian coffee trees in order to boost coffee production.

World Bank Research Challenges Counties to Triple Infrastructure Funding By Ambrose Matata


evolution is one of the three pillars highlighted in the World Bank’s partnership with Kenya. The agreement will see the Bank invest up to US$ 4 billion during its five-year implantation period. Among the key investment areas considered by the Bank include provision of technical and analytical support that will help in formulating policies and rolling out devolution to both National Government and County leadership. As a result, counties have been able to make significant structural and economic reforms that have yielded to sustained economic growth in the recent past. According to a World Bank Report on devolution and

infrastructure, Kenya’s prospects for growth and shared prosperity are on the rise due to increased investment in infrastructure and devolution. “Kenya’s economy has recovered from the negative shocks that it experienced in 2008-09 posting an average growth rate of six percent for the past five years, according to the PER, which projects that growth will remain between 6-7 percent to 2017,” reads a section of the Report. Kenya’s decentralization has been rated the most rapid, ambitious devolution processes in the world and its economic growth is expected to rise to 6.1 per cent in 2017. It has presented new governance challenges poverty and oppor-

tunities as the Country builds a new set of county governments from scratch. However, despite the Government’s expansionary fiscal policy that has increased opportunities for growth and economic sustainability, it has also subjected the country to a rising public debt and spending pressure motivated by devolution. The World Bank warns about Kenya’s spending decisions to contain growth of recurrent administrative costs, prioritization and execution of infrastructure projects and improve selection. This, the Bank Group observes, will narrow down the persistent increases in the public wage bill.

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Kisumu County Grapples with Low Tax Compliance by SMEs Seeks To Enhance Tax Compliance As 80% of Businesses Are SMEs By Ambrose Matata


he differences in tax reforms across the country’s 47 counties have had an adverse effect on the growth of SMEs. County governments have identified SMEs as a key source of revenue through

issuing of various licenses like trade licenses and business permits. However, much work needs to be done to bring SMEs into the tax net, as well as foster an environment that enables them to grow. A research by

Mr Onyancha Ondimu, (Kenyatta University) on the Effects of Tax Reforms on Compliance of Small and Medium Enterprises in Kenya reveals that a huge number of SMEs are non-compliant at both the County and National

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SMEs are volatile establishments that need special treatment. Most of them remain in the informal sector because they feel the cost of tax compliance is too high for them. Government levels. “Like other profit generating entities, SMEs are also expected to pay their taxes. However, the concern is how much tax should be levied on them. SMEs are volatile establishments that need special treatment. Most of them remain in the informal sector because they feel the cost of tax compliance is too high for them.” The research states fur-

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ther that most small business entities end up benefitting immensely from not paying taxes, a move that compromises the Government’s development agenda in the country. Economic planners have long identified SMEs as key contributors to economic growth. Their importance has grown over the years. Mr Ondimu sees the need to make SMEs tax compliant as “urgent,” and believes it is now

time to ensure SMEs are made compliant. While pushing for SME compliance, Mr Ondimu looks at the possible reasons why small businesses choose to abscond paying tax. The study points out that tax reforms should identify those outside the tax net for registration, and then enforce compliance. Kisumu County, situated strategically bordering Uganda and Tanzania through Lake

Victoria, is expected to make a major contribution to the Exchequer, but has failed to do so due to low tax compliance by SMEs in the area. Failure to improve tax compliance by SMEs will cost the Government heavily in terms of tax revenue and revenue to undertake development programmes. This calls for education programmes for SMEs to appreciate the importance of paying taxes. A major difficulty in enforcing tax compliance is that most small businesses remain in the informal sector, and tax authorities are unable to monitor their entry and exit.

But despite their being in the informal sector, their economic contribution is very significant. In a business Expo that was held in 2015 in Kisumu County, the county’s Industrialization and Trade County Executive, Dr. Rose Kisia, acknowledged SMEs as the backbone of the county’s economy, hinting that the sector comprises more than 80 per cent of the region’s business. As the first ever business Expo to be held in the region, SMEs in the county got a chance to showcase their products to potential consumers, a move that is believed to

have had inspired hope to the growth and development of the Small and Medium Enterprises in Kisumu County.


Kiambu County Governor William Kobogo addressing a student from Kimende Polytechnic during a Biashara Fund training initiative. Looking on from extreme right is the Youth County Executive Machel Waikenda.

Kiambu County Bets Big with Biashara Fund

Revolving Fund For Loans Empowering Thousands of SMEs in County By Caleb Mutua


he huge demand for Kiambu County’s revolving fund for small businesses has given impetus to the country to boost it from Kshs 300 million to a billion shillings. The move is expected to turn the tide on financing Kenya’s small businesses at

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the county level. Kiambu County government set up the Biashara Fund targeted at the Youth, Women and Persons with Disability (PWDs) in September 2014, becoming the pioneer county to set up a revolving fund to enable the youth, women

and PWDs start and run small businesses. In 2015, the county reported unprecedented success on the fund. Out of 33,000 applications from the 60 wards in the county, the fund gave out loans to over 2,000 small businesses, youths, women,

Saccos and PWDs. The fund gives interest-free loans of up to KShs 100,000 to individuals and KShs 500,000 to groups, payable within 36 months. Commendably, 95 per cent of the applicants have so far paid back the full amount they borrowed. Kiambu’s Youth County Executive, Mr Machel Waikenda, said the Kiambu governor, Mr William Kabogo, plans to increase the kitty to reach 1.4 million youths in Kiambu, to reduce unemployment and combat the soaring problem of drug abuse and alcoholism

in the county. “Biashara Fund was Governor William Kabogo’s campaign promise to create a fund for youth, women and PWDs, and we are excited that many young people came out in large numbers to apply for the fund. In order to meet the high demand, we would need nearly KShs 4 billion to adequately fund entrepreneurs and existing small businesses. The Governor is pushing to have the fund hit KShs 1 billion,” said Mr Waikenda. Women aged below 35 emerged as the biggest ben-

eficiaries of the first KShs 300 million disbursed in the first two years, followed by youths and PWDs. The Kiambu County Youth, Women and Persons with Disability Enterprise Development Fund Board reviewed all the applications, looking at, among other criteria, market relevance, finance plans, capacity to create jobs and innovation. Sub-county committees from every ward evaluated the application forms.


• Size: 2,543.5 Km2 • Population: 1.623 million (2009 Census) • Administrative units: 12 Sub counties • Market and Urban centers: 2,517 trading centers • Road and Rail network: 2,033 KM of roads and 131KM of rail • Total arable land: 1,874 Km2 • Forest size: 426.62 KM2 • Labour force: 961, 261 people (2009 Census) • Health facilities: 364 • Literacy levels: 95.4%

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“When the Fund was launched, we did a capacity building program. We went to each and every ward speaking to residents about the fund and how they can be able to apply for it, training them about entrepreneurship. We got over 33,000 applications, which was way beyond our expectations as we had anticipated (an initial) lukewarm situation which would build up. We have stepped up efforts to reach out to the male youth to convince them to apply for funding to ensure equal disbursement,” added Mr Waikenda. According to the County, the purpose of the kitty is not only to give money to small businesses, but also to enhance young people’s capacity to create and innovate.

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Out of the KShs 300 million, 70 per cent of the fund was allocated to groups while the remaining 30 per cent was disbursed to individuals. Saccos such as the Kiambu County Women Sacco, Kiambu County Rural Women Sacco, and UNES Sacco had a borrowing limit of KShs 7.5 million. “The idea is to fund the SACCOs then they lend within their structures. We partnered with The Visionary Empowerment Program, which is a big program for issuing out water tanks in Kiambu County. We funded the programme with KShs 15 million, and in phase one we gave out 468 water tanks (5000L) to women groups across Kiambu County. We are supporting greenhouses as well; we have partnered with the Agriculture Ministry

and we are buying greenhouses for groups. We have given out about KShs 10 million for greenhouses only, and plan to give out another KShs 15 million,” said Mr Waikenda. One such group is Karwai Self Help Group from Mangú Sub County, which, according to the group’s treasurer, Mr Fredrick Mwangi, is reaping benefits from a KShs. 500,000 business loan. “We are very grateful to the county for its support through the Biashara Fund. Each member of the group has been able to expand their businesses in the market. We hope to finish paying the loans and get more funds to enable more young people access the money,” said Mr Mwangi. The initiative has also seen a significant number of PWDs

Biashara Fund was Governor William Kabogo’s campaign promise to create a fund for youth, women and PWDs, and we are excited that many young people came out in large numbers to apply for the fund.

quit begging and start engaging in different income-generating activities within the county. Kimende Disabled Group received two plastic water tanks and installed them on a public toilet in their village. Another group in Limuru Sub County, Jijenge Self-Help Group, invested the money they received from Biashara Fund on a dairy cow. For Alice Njoki from Lari Sub County, accessing loans from commercial banks has been a daunting task. “Äs a disabled person, the endless trips to the

banks and the volatile interest rates made me shy away. I applied for the Biashara Fund and got the loan. I used it to expand my small business and I am very hopeful that soon I’ll finish servicing the loan.” Mr Waikenda says that the loan application process is being streamlined to reduce bureaucracy. “For instance, application forms would initially go to the board and then the board would approve and go straight to the bank. We want to cut that down so that applica-

tion forms go straight to the sub-county committees. Once they vet them, they can go straight to the banks for due diligence and disbursement because they know the residents much better than the Board. The Board oversees the functions of the sub-county committees,” he explained. Loan applicants apply through Family Bank and Rafiki Bank and the commercial banks collect debts on behalf of the County.

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Ask the Experts: How to Network the Right Way

By Ms Frida Owinga


esearch shows that people who convert their business cards into contacts network for at least 6.5 hours a week, and when you think about that, you are probably thinking you don’t have time to go to so many events. Networking is an investment. Define your target audience first before you settle on an event. It is not about the food you are going to eat but the people you are going to meet. Once you know who your target audience is, it will help you determine what kind of events you should go for and invest in. Don’t invest in the speaker and don’t judge any event by the price. You can create a marketing budget to guide you on how much you spend on networking. A business card is very important. I consider it a link to a new world. It is extremely important to have a good business card because that is how you will be remembered. Just like first impressions are everything, that business cards will go to places you cannot go. What will people be saying about it? That will determine if your business card will turn to a contact or not. A business card is a connection tool, a starting point. Ideally you should create some rapport before exchanging business cards. Just because you have a business card doesn’t mean you have to give it

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There’s nothing wrong with you writing a brief introduction about yourself on a piece of paper and practising in front of the mirror. out and you don’t have to feel guilty if you do not give everyone your business card. I’m personally very stingy with mine because I create a rapport with you first before I decide to give you my business card. There has to be a connection between me and you. I like asking people their names and what they do and I kind of just listen and see if there is a connection. If there is, then I might ask for your business card. Sometimes people give me their business cards and I don’t give them mine. So it’s a connection tool. Once you connect then you can exchange because you want to get to know them more. The key thing is to know how to develop friendship from business cards. That brings us to the follow up. The fortune is in the follow up of business networks. Often we give out business

cards and expect the phone to ring. The phone won’t ring because people do business with people they know and believe it or not, people do business with people they know and like. So do I like you instantly? Sometimes yes, but not always. The follow up is to get to know you better. The follow up is not to sell to you. People don’t like to be sold to so if you’re making friends you want to know what they do, and the connection between the two of you. Remember it is not about the events but what you do after the event. Once you get the business card, what you do with it? Write what the person does on the card because you might not remember. Go a step further and have a tool that will help you manage your business cards, like a Sales Tracker, and updating the tool is part of the 6.5 hours of en-

gaging and networking. Have an open mind when you are out networking. You will meet different kinds of people so be positive, show yourself friendly, get to know people and don’t ask for too much too soon. Finally, people do not buy what you do, they buy why you do. Don’t just tell people that you are an accountant or marketer, be exciting. There’s nothing wrong with you writing a brief introduction about yourself on a piece of paper and practising in front of the mirror. Pitch it to yourself. You can also try practising in front of two or three friends. The first 10 people might think you are weird but guess what? They will remember you. Aim to stand out because you can never change the world by being like it.

Frida Owinga is a leading authority on entrepreneurship and an alumnus of the Small Business Management program of Small Business Advisory of Georgia and USIU, Goldman Sachs Women in Entrepreneurship program.

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Safaricom’s Head of Innovtion Mrs. Veronica Ogeto- Tchoketch


SMEs Must Identify Needs that Induce Innovation


afaricom is not only the most profitable company in the region, but also a market leader in inventions. The telecoms operator has launched success innovations such as M-Pesa, the world’s most successful way of sending money through your phone, M-Shwari and other innovations that provide solutions in communication and banking. In an exclusive interview with SME Digest writer Sammy Grey, Safaricom’s Head of Innovation Mrs. Veronica Ogeto- Tchoketch opened up on the telecom’s innovation journey and the various nitty gritties concerned in the process of innovation, especially for startups. Grey: As HOD Innovation at Safaricom, what does your job entail? Mrs. Ogeto: Innovation is one of the key pillars of Safariom’s business growth pillars. We undertake innovation in three key horizons: The first one is incremental improvement, which we get from our staff members. They normally interact with the customers on a day to day basis, so they get feedback on how some of our products are faring. The staff members can also have ideas of their own, since they also interact with the process daily, therefore it may lead to a growth of an innovative culture within Safaricom. We also work with the ecosystem and this en-

tails using our assets, wide network, customer base and distributors to partner with universities and startups that are looking to innovate. The last horizon is co-creation, where we partner with other institutions to facilitate the creation and growth of innovations. Grey: Has the company always had an innovation department? Mrs. Ogeto: No, we are only three years old. However, innovation has always been a part of Safaricom’s DNA. It only needed the collaborative components, a central location to run, monitor and identify the innovative projects on the company’s behalf.

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Grey: Could you kindly take us through the process of innovation? Mrs. Ogeto: Certainly. First, a meaningful need should always take pre-eminence in the process. These needs could stem out of a lack of basic amenities (lack of clean water, food or proper healthcare). Your proposed product ought to effectively cater for the needs of your customer(s). So a meaningful need ought to be there, a prototype that will be tested in the market, feedback from your target consumers and putting the right partnerships in place to scale up the innovation accordingly. Grey: What inspires the different innovations that your team comes up with? Mrs. Ogeto: Need plays a fundamental role. Internally, daily interactions with the normal process and customers who have certain issues

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that need to be addressed, acts as a pinpoint for one to get a suitable idea of an innovative product. Customers who we view as external innovators are able to see gaps within their communities and they come up with ideas that can lead to the conceptualization of a relevant innovation to fill those gaps. Grey: What are some of the most successful innovations you have come up with? And which ones didn’t take off as expected? Mrs. Ogeto: I can say Okoa Stima and M-Tiba have been quite successful at the moment. However innovation is a journey, so we expect that other products that were and are to be rolled out shall enjoy the same amount of success in the market. Linda Jamii and the Big Box gave us immense lessons. We were able to examine the gaps and

A close analysis of the founders of Facebook, AliBaba, M-Kopa and the likes, started small. The only difference is that they persevered and leveraged on their resources and made strategic partnerships that saw them scale up their products to be the profit making products that they are currently.

challenges that were faced. This informed us on proper ways to create so as to go in to solve a meaningful need and stay competitive in the market, as well.

tinuously engage with your customers. If the customers like the product, then it is a good one. However if they don’t, that may be the best time to rethink the value of the product.

Grey: How can Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) ensure that they are always innovating?

In addition, your company should understand that the product has to give you a balance in terms of keeping it in the market and meeting the operational costs of the company.

Mrs. Ogeto: They ought to stay in touch with their customers, observe them, their behaviour towards the product, identify emerging gaps and constantly evolve to meet those gaps. They should also identify meaningful needs. These needs ought to create sustainable innovations that will survive and eventually pay for themselves in the long run.

Grey: Is innovation expensive? Mrs. Ogeto: I wouldn’t think so. The tip is to do it in small milestones. You should also partner with institutions that can let you leverage on their assets for the product’s good. If you do it alone, the cost might overwhelm you, if you are a startup.

Grey: Some innovations may fail. At what point should a start-up move on to the next innovaGrey: What are some of the challenges SMEs are likely to face when innovating? tion? Mrs. Ogeto: Interesting question. The stage of innovation matters, in this case. You need to give the product time in the market as you con-

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Mrs. Ogeto: Access to the right type of capital, from the right financial partners is a major challenge. The skills set of the startup in terms of

talent, marketing and creativity, may also pose as a challenge in the scope of innovation. Realising relevant partnerships that let you leverage on your assets and networks and facilitate patenting and protection of your intellectual property is also a challenge in the innovations market.

test bed, where interested parties are able to leverage on Safaricom’s assets, networks and resources to maximize on the output of their innovations. Grey: Finally, what message do you have for SMEs who think innovation is for companies with huge turnovers?

Grey: How can SMEs leverage Safaricom’s innovative products to grow their businesses?

Mrs. Ogeto: Innovation comes from anywhere. A close analysis of the founders of Facebook, AliBaba, M-Kopa and the likes, started small.

Mrs. Ogeto: We have products such as MPESA, distribution services, tariffs and products such as Ready Business that rely on call, data and cloud based services, specifically tailored to facilitate proper running of SMEs. Furthermore, we have the Sandbox, which is a

The only difference is that they persevered and leveraged on their resources and made strategic partnerships that saw them scale up their products to be the profit making products that they are currently.



Bank Financing Big Project Targets 50 Million Women in Africa

Bank to finance platform to support women empowerment in 36 African countries By SME Digest Correspondent


he African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a USD 12.4 million grant for a project called “50 million Women Speak” to create a networking platform dedicated to sub-Saharan women entrepreneurs. The grant will be spread between the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The project is an innovative social media platform to enable women to start, grow and scale their business through the dynamic exchange of ideas. According to Ms Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the AfDB’s Special Envoy on Gender, this digital/virtual marketplace will connect businesswomen to encourage peer-topeer learning, mentoring, and information and knowledge sharing. The platform will cover 36 countries, and will be acces-

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sible on mobile phones. It will enable women to access business training, mentorship, financial services and locally-relevant business information, while building their own networks of contacts. The project will be implemented within a period of three years starting from 2017. The number of monthly platform users could reach 50,000 women in 2022. By developing their businesses, it is expected they’ll create 10 per cent more jobs. In Africa, like in many parts of the world, women business owners continue to face gender-specific barriers such as lower levels of education and business training, weak property rights that deprive them of collateral and tangible assets, legal barriers that impede their economic activities, and cultural barriers that discourage women from thriving as entrepreneurs. The consequence is that women have challenges accessing financial and non-financial

services, and so the size and growth of their businesses suffer. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the financing gap for women is estimated at over $20 billion, and is likely to be more acute among younger and women launching startups. “Platform users will learn about their rights and the way to obtain financial support,” said Salieu Jack, Chief ICT Engineer & the Project’s Team Leader at the AfDB. In the concerned countries, the rate of women entrepreneurs with access to banking loans could jump from 4 per cent to 10 per cent by 2022. The launch of the regional platform will be coordinated with the creation of Country Teams which will include Regional Economic Communities (RECs), specialized institutions for content gathering and dissemination, publicity, outreach, and advocacy, and targeting women entrepreneurs in their respective member states.

The biggest change in customer service is the sheer number of channels through which people can contact your business. Instead of just phone calls and snail mail, consumers can now reach you by email, social media, text message, video call and live chat. Mobile technology has also enabled constant connectivity, giving customers 24/7 access to public forums in which they can talk — or complain — about your company. Only organizations that are willing to adapt and respond to this shift in business-consumer dynamics will survive.

Rising Customer Service Demands Forcing Changes in Business Dynamics By Nidal Kamouni


he essence of customer service can be traced to time immemorial. On the other hand, the method of delivery of the customer service experience needs to be continually updated to match the desires and expectations of an ever-changing customer base. That is why we believe that the customer experience landscape is ripe for disruption with companies slowly making progress toward more seamless and simpler customer experiences.

We believe that businesses will focus on making self-service easier. In fact, we are already seeing companies start to address the desires of many consumers for automated self-service to improve by evaluating their core systems, investing in knowledge management and exploring virtual assistants. Some of the initiatives that we can already see in place, include connecting conversations with context where companies have removed the need for consumers to explain, sometimes repeatedly, why they need service, which goes a long way in making self-service easier. Another initiative is when businesses make secure authentication easy with some introducing voice biometrics

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In the age of fierce competitiveness, companies that deliver a great end-toend experience that makes them stand out from the clutter will attract and retain customers.

to meet demands for easy, secure authentication instead of consumers having to use PINs and passwords to authenticate their identity. And finally, businesses have understood the value of their websites and have taken steps to improve their website effectiveness. Customers are increasingly beginning their self-service journey on the web, only calling the contact center when they can’t find an answer online. Websites today have employed virtual assistants that are powered by language understanding and conversational capabilities, streamlining and speeding up the digital service experience, minimizing a customer’s time and frustration while saving the business money. No one likes to wait. By making self-service easier, businesses will automatically help empower customers control their time if they improve if they offer consumers more control when customer service

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extends to the field. In the recent Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service by Forrester, it was found that 73% of consumers say that valuing their time was the most important thing a company could do to provide them with good service — whether on a call, in a chat, or while waiting for a service technician to troubleshoot and fix their product. Think about it, would you not prefer to wait for a delivery to arrive within a timeframe rather than listening to that annoying hold music that some businesses insist on playing as you wait. To this end, businesses continue to explore ways to offer self-service scheduling, providing an easy means of rescheduling appointments and actively seeking feedback on the service experience. For me personally, waiting for a service or delivery person to arrive within a set

window of time, far outstrips the annoyance I feel listening to hold music. The Forrester report forecasts this year companies will explore ways to offer self-service scheduling and better inform and prepare their employees to provide effective field service. For businesses who would like to improve their customers’ field service experiences while differentiating themselves on this aspect of customer service in the near future, we recommend a few suggestions. For a customer to have a good field service experience, the businesses should successfully engage with the customer before arriving and it is important to use multiple channels of communication to raise your engagement rates. Help make your customer’s ability to reschedule or communicate with you is fast and easy that can be accomplished

from every message they receive, on every channel, with a simple click, tap or spoken request. With all the knowledge gained through the field data, businesses must leverage it to predict needs of its customers delivering faster, easier and a more personal experience. In the age of fierce competitiveness, companies that deliver a great end-to-end experience that makes them stand out from the clutter will attract and retain customers. This is a universal truth no matter which industry a business is in and businesses who choose to make superior customer experience its core business strategy will continue to thrive.

Nidal Kamouni is the Chief Executive Officer PCCI Group

KEY POINTS • Predict the needs of your customers • Make self-service easier • Make secure authentication easy • Empower customers control their time • Engage with the customer before arriving • Use multiple channels of communication • Make your customer’s ability to reschedule or communicate with you fast and easy SME Digest | 29

Canvas Media co-owner Sonal Haria


Digital Marketing Agency Canvas Media


ocated in a clean, modern space off Church Road lies the boutique digital marketing agency Canvas Media. Founded by Arjan Grewal-Thethy and Sonal Haria, both of whom are under 30, the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) takes a fresh and innovative approach to marketing. Arjan’s unique eye for branding, business-savvy personality and ability to merge international concepts on a local level allowed him to spearhead Canvas Media’s success in the market in only one year. Sonal, meanwhile has an ambitious personality, a creative mindset and a strong grasp on all things marketing, which gave her a head start in forming Canvas and growing it to the youthful, buzzing agency it is today. She documents her journey through her recently launched blog Diaries of a Serial Entrepreneur ( The duo sat down with SME Digest Writer Wanjiru Kariuki to discuss their entrepreneurial journey.

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Canvas Media co-owner Arjan Grewal-Thethy

Wanjiru: Tell us a bit more about yourselves and Canvas Media. Arjan: We were both born and raised in Kenya. We completed our high school education in Nairobi, and then went abroad for further studies. I studied Business Management and Nutrition in London, fostering my passion for health and fitness. While I was studying, I also practiced various martial arts on a profes-sional level. Sonal: I studied Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the Sauder School of Business, UBC. During my studies, I built an app and gained a lot of experience in the tech start-up world. Upon completing my Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) I started my first marketing agency in Canada launching Vancouver’s first Women’s Lifestyle Expo. Although it was a success, my

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heart was always back in Kenya. I saw the incredible need in Kenya to do things at international standards using advanced, tech-savvy marketing techniques. We thus decided to start Canvas Media. Wanjiru: Why and how did you get started? What inspired you? Arjan: When we lived abroad we were exposed to the evolving marketing trends and patterns. We saw that brands gave more time to their customers, communicated to them and sold them a lifestyle, rather than just a product or service. After moving back a few years ago, we noticed that this was not being done in Kenya - and if at all, not to the standards that it should be. It was also very expensive. We were inspired to start our own agency to help brands and businesses - especially smaller companies

Digital advertising has a higher return per shilling spent, as well as giving us the ability to target our audience and gather useful data, behavioural patterns and user analytics.

who did not have the financial advantage or knowledge to market their businesses. We saw that there was lack of innovative marketing and out-of-the box campaigns. We also realised that brands didn’t really build relationships with their customers. Wanjiru: What sets you apart from other digital marketing firms? Sonal: Canvas Media is a boutique agency and we want to remain bespoke. We are selective with our cli-ents and will only take on clients and brands we personally believe in in order to remain authentic. Our greatest strengths as an agency are our technology, creative and strategy departments. Because we highly believe in three things: innovation, creativity and leadership, our success with our clients stems from our devoted attention to all three aspects. We focus on what success would look like for our clients, rather than trying to just sell them as many services as possible. Wanjiru: Why should people invest in digital marketing vs traditional advertising/marketing?

Arjan: Generally speak-ing, digital advertising has a higher return per shilling spent, as well as giving us the ability to target our audience and gather useful data, behavioural patterns and user analytics. This data helps companies justify their marketing spend much more accurately which helps sceptics realize that marketing can be effective. Wanjiru: What’s been the response from Kenyan companies? Are people embracing digital? Sonal: With over 26 million internet users in Kenya, and the average Kenyan spending around 6 hours a day on their phone, who wouldn’t see the value of digital marketing? You have to be where everyone already is and digital is the only way forward. We find we have to initially educate some of the older, more established businesses on the importance of this. Our younger clients seem to be more forthcoming to the idea. Overall, companies are definitely realizing the need for a clean, multi-platform website, great branding, active social media, customer loyalty programs and customer data in order to stay competitive. Wanjiru: As an SME, what have been the chal-

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lenges of starting up in Nairobi? How have you overcome these challenges?

Wanjiru: What advice would you give others thinking of starting their own company?

Arjan: In entrepreneurship, there is no straight road and everyone has to start from somewhere. We started in Sonal’s father office to keep costs low, with no employees. There were many times when we contemplated changing direction because it is still quite a new concept, but we stuck the course.

Arjan: Starting a company isn’t for everyone. You have to step out of your comfort zone and do what oth-ers won’t. You have to self-motived and wake up every day to do something productive. Don’t think you know it all because we all make mistakes in the beginning and we are always learning. Remember, always have your head up but nose down. Be humble, be determined and never let anyone put you or your dreams down!

There are times you will work for days on a proposal, attend numerous meetings and believe you are about to close a great contract, and you will be disappointed. But that’s the name of the game. You just have to keep going.

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