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Empowering Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise by Fostering Innovation

June 26, 2020

The UN defines micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as non-subsidiary, independent firms which employ less than a given number of employees. For small firms they generally have fewer than 50 employees, while micro-enterprises have at most 10 workers. MSMEs act as the backbone for most developing countries in Africa. These are economies that are ridden with high rates of unemployment, thus MSMEs play a crucial role in creating decent jobs, improving livelihoods, poverty alleviation, and facilitating rural development.

As the world combats the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic development outcomes are expected to be seriously affected by the disruption caused both globally and locally. However, at such critical times smaller businesses can be agile in response to a changing world. Young people are developing their entrepreneurial spirit as a mitigation measure against the issue of unemployment. Different platforms across the globe are pushing for young people’s participation in innovative start-ups.

With growing technology, the digital age offers an opportunity for young people to improve their products and market at a low cost. However, they still struggle with key constraints that include access to finance. Due to their size and vulnerabilities, MSMEs are less likely to be able to obtain bank loans than large firms; instead they rely on internal funds or cash from friends and family to launch and initially run their enterprises. Additionally, unfriendly policies and operating environments often pose a challenge to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

As we observe the Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, Asante Africa Foundation youth are pursuing a diverse set of activities and income sources as a livelihood strategy for the well-being of their families. We hope that through their great initiatives, they are able to inspire their peers to explore opportunities around them to contribute towards local sustainable development.

Crocheting their Way to the Top! 

Najjuma – Asante Africa Alumni, Uganda
Najjuma

Najjuma is a youth entrepreneur who is passionate about crocheting. She began her entrepreneurial journey in 2013 by making cards and wall hangings out of paper. Her parents were very supportive but cautioned her against neglecting school work. She soon took up an interest in crocheting, an idea that came from their house worker who used to make table and chair cloth from sacks and threads. Her parents supported her by providing the threads and a crochet hook and she began to make coin pouches that she gifted to her friends.

Later, Najjuma joined the Uganda Institute of Information and Communication Technology and through her transport and lunch money savings, she bought herself a knitting machine and self-trained from home. To perfect her skill, she volunteered to make sweaters for the Nkoowe Parents Primary School.

Najjuma is grateful to have connected with other ladies from Kenya via social media who shared her crocheting passion. They were able to share tutorials, skills, and knowledge to empower each other. Currently her small business operates under “Nitaliz_crochets” on social media and she customizes orders for baby outfits, beach wear, and adult clothing. She has also taken to teaching her friends on how to create their own businesses. She admits that her small business faces challenges like any other that include low finance and accessibility to her customers. 

Tanya – Program Change-maker, Kenya
Tanya

Tanya is keeping a positive spirit during such difficult current times. With the long lockdowns, she has pursued her crocheting skill to a great deal. She shares that her initial capital was from her mother who helped her purchase a crochet hook and a few threads. She was also able to utilize a few threads from her house. She is now making and selling the mats among her friends and neighbours.

She developed her skill through the help of her mother’s friend. She recounts that during the LEI summit in 2019, she was aiming to win the cash prize for the business model canvas competition to grow her business but unfortunately she didn’t win. Undaunted, back home she was relentless to pursue the craft. Tanya’s future goals are to open a mat shop at Langa location in Gilgil when she is able to raise enough capital for it. Meanwhile she relies on word of mouth for her marketing.

Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) can sometimes be the only source of employment in rural areas. Necessary support therefore needs to be extended to young people to enable them to not only cater for their families but also for those in their communities. Quoting the Dalai Lama, “Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”

Written by: Winnie Njeri