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Nairobi, June 16, 2021 Invest in Africa (IIA) and Unilever entered a partnership to accelerate trade for marginalised Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Kenya by enhancing their access to procurement opportunities.

The collaboration will enable capacity building to augment the ability of the SMEs to access tender opportunities availed through the partnership. Specified target groups include SMES being run by youth and women, those in informal settlements, cultural minority groups, and persons living with disabilities. 

Leveraging on the IIA’s technology platform, Biashara.Now, the two partnering organisations will share resources and synergies towards convening, classifying, and training the SMEs to access the platform services, including procurement opportunities. 

IIA’s goal is to support Kenyan SMEs to win $100M worth of contracts and create up to one million jobs by 2025. This, coupled with Unilever’s commitment to increase the participation of minority SMEs in its supply chain, will open a new avenue for cooperation and collaboration in enhancing enterprise growth and retention of jobs within the SME sector. 

“We shall continue to drive diversity and inclusion in our value chain by removing barriers and biases in creating more employment opportunities. To drive this commitment, we will increase the participation of minority SMEs in our supply chain,” said Unilever Kenya Managing Director, Luck Ochieng.

Luck further added that Unilever’s goal is to actively make its supply chain more diverse by reaching out to people from groups who have been under-represented up to now. At the same time, unlocking innovation, agility, and opportunity – both for Unilever and within its suppliers' businesses.

According to a report by Deloitte Kenya on Economic Outlook, SMEs are strained by insufficient capital, limited market access, and inadequate knowledge and skills. The partnership between IIA and Unilever will facilitate access to finance to enable the SMEs to deliver on the assigned contracts. Further to capacity building, the partnership will incorporate the specified SME groups into the ongoing IIA SME Recovery and Resilience Program and facilitate learning and networking sessions to enhance understanding and adherence to Unilever’s procurement needs and standards. 

A 2018 National Economic Survey report by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) indicates that SMEs constitute 98 percent of all businesses in Kenya, create 30 percent of jobs annually, and contribute three percent of the GDP. This places emphasis on the potential of this sector in economic prosperity. It also necessitates targeted interventions to enhance these enterprises' growth by channelling the necessary opportunities and improving inclusion in key value chains. 

By enhancing access to procurement opportunities as an impetus for the survival and growth of the SMEs, this partnership will provide an essential intervention, especially with SMEs being the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Commenting on the partnership, IIA-Kenya lead, Terry Kinyua said, “Through this partnership with Unilever, we hope to create an economy that thrives for everyone because of everyone, where we all participate in markets as entrepreneurs, employees, and consumers, driving economic growth through entrepreneurship and business creation.”