Challenges of Small and Medium Enterprises in Kenya

12 December 2016

The definition of enterprises according to staff headcount and turnover or balance-sheet total is essential for identifying businesses able to benefit from European Union (EU) programs or policies specifically designed for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) Challenges Facing SMEs in Kenya It is generally recognized that SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) face unique challenges, which affect their growth and profitability and hence, diminish their ability to contribute effectively to sustainable development.

In this article, the following challenges are briefly discussed: Lack of Managerial Training and Experience, Inadequate Education and Skills, Lack of Credit, National Policy and Regulatory Environment, Technological Change, Poor Infrastructure and Scanty Markets information, lack of Managerial Training and Experience. Many SMEs owners or managers lack managerial training and experience. The typical owner or managers of small businesses develop their own approach to management, through a process of trial and error.

Challenges of Small and Medium Enterprises in Kenya Essay Example

As a result, their management style is likely to be more intuitive than analytical, more concerned with day-to-day operations than long-term issues, and more opportunistic than strategic in its concept (Hill 1987). Although this attitude is the key strength at the start-up stage of the enterprise because it provides the creativity needed, it may present problems when complex decisions have to be made. A consequence of poor managerial ability is that SME owners are ill prepared to face changes in the business environment and to plan appropriate changes in technology.

Majority of those who run SMEs are ordinary lot whose educational background is lacking. Hence they may not well equipped to carry out managerial routines for their enterprises (King and McGrath 2002). Inadequate Education and Skills Education and skills are needed to run micro and small enterprises. Research shows that majority of the lot carrying out micro and small enterprises in Kenya are not quite well equipped in terms of education and skills. Study suggests that those with more education and training are more likely to be successful in the SME sector (King and McGrath 2002).

As such, for small businesses to do well in Kenya, people need to be well informed in terms of skills and management. SMEs in ICT appear to be doing well with the sprouting of many commercial colleges offering various computer applications. Further, studies show that most of those running SMEs in this sector have at least attained college level education (Wanjohi and Mugure, 2008). Lack of Credit Lack of access to credit is almost universally indicated as a key problem for SMEs. This affects technology choice by limiting the number of alternatives that can be considered.

Many SMEs may use an inappropriate technology because it is the only one they can afford. In some cases, even where credit is available, the entrepreneur may lack freedom of choice because the lending conditions may force the purchase of heavy, immovable equipment that can serve as collateral for the loan. Credit constraints operate in variety of ways in Kenya where undeveloped capital market forces entrepreneurs to rely on self-financing or borrowing from friends or relatives. Lack of ccess to long-term credit for small enterprises forces them to rely on high cost short term finance. There are various other financial challenges that face small enterprises. They include the high cost of credit, high bank charges and fees. The scenario witnessed in Kenya particularly during the climaxing period of the year 2008 testifies the need for credit among the common and low earning entrepreneurs. Numerous money lenders in the name of Pyramid schemes came up, promising hope among the ‘little investors,’ that they can make it to the financial freedom through soft borrowing.

The rationale behind turning to these schemes among a good number of entrepreneurs is mainly to seek alternatives and soft credit with low interest rates while making profits. Financial constraint remains a major challenge facing SMEs in Kenya (Wanjohi and Mugure, 2008). National Policy and Regulatory Environment The national policy and regulatory environment has an important impact on technology decisions at the enterprise level. The structural adjustment programs (SAPs) implemented in many African countries are aimed at removing heavy policy distortions, which have been viewed as detrimental to the growth of the private sector.

SAPs tend to severely affect vulnerable groups in the short run and have been associated with the worsening living conditions in many African countries (USAID 1991). The findings in the study by Wanjohi and Mugure (2008) indicate that business environment is among the key factors that affect the growth of MSEs. Unpredictable government policies coupled with ‘grand corruption,’ high taxation rates, all continue to pose great threat, not only to the sustainability of SMEs but also to the Kenyan economy that was gaining momentum after decades of wastage during KANU era. Technological Change

Change of technology has posed a great challenge to small businesses. Since the mid-1990s there has been a growing concern about the impact of technological change on the work of micro and small enterprises. Even with change in technology, many small business entrepreneurs appear to be unfamiliar with new technologies. Those who seem to be well positioned, they are most often unaware of this technology and if they know, it is not either locally available or not affordable or not situated to local conditions. Foreign firms still remain in the forefront in accessing the new technologies.

In most of the African nations, Kenya inclusive, the challenge of connecting indigenous small enterprises with foreign investors and speeding up technological upgrading still persists (Muteti, 2005). There is digital pide between the rural and urban Kenya. With no power supply in most of the rural areas, it is next to impossible to have Internet connectivity and access to information and networks that are core in any enterprise. Thus technological change, though meant to bring about economic change even among the rural lot, does not appear to answer to the plight of the rural entrepreneurs.

Poor Infrastructure Poor infrastructures pose a major challenge to small enterprises in Kenya. In Kenya, the provision of better infrastructures has lagged behind over years. There are poor roads, inadequate electricity supply. According to the proceedings of the National Investment Conference, November 2003, Kenya still stands in need of better infrastructures. It has been the pledge NARC government (when it took over from KANU in 2002) to improve the infrastructures, but there is yet much to be done.

Scanty Markets Information (information asymmetry) Lack of sufficient market information poses a great challenge to small enterprises. Despite the vast amount of trade-related information available and the possibility of accessing national and international databases, many small enterprises continue to rely heavily on private or even physical contacts for market related information. This is due to inability to interpret the statistical data (Muteti, 2005) and poor connectivity especially in rural areas.

Since there is vast amount of information and only lack of statistical knowledge to interpret and Internet connectivity, small enterprises entrepreneurs need to be supported. With connectivity being enhanced (by connecting Kenya globally through Fiber Optic Cable project) there is renewed hope for the SMEs. Conclusion and Recommendations One major question we should pose is: what solution can be offered to the plight of small enterprises in Kenya? For one, policies should aim to encourage and promote the development of local technologies.

Emphasis should be on the promotion of the local tool industry to reduce reliance on imports. SMEs are said to face a “liability of smallness. ” Because of their size and resource limitations, they are unable to develop new technologies or to make vital changes in existing ones. Still, there is evidence that SMEs have the potential to initiate minor technological innovations to suit their circumstances. However, for SMEs to fully develop and use this potential, they need specific policy measures to ensure that technology services and infrastructure are provided.

Further, research and development institutions that are publicly funded should be encouraged to target the technology needs of SMEs. Secondly, the problem of access to information may be attributed to the inadequacy of SME support institutions. This points to the need for a supportive policy to encourage the establishment of documentation centers and information networks to provide information to SMEs at an affordable price. Thirdly, the government should come up with training centers for training managerial and technical courses for the small enterprises entrepreneurs.

Equally, there should be business information centers. Fourthly, government should come up with proper regulatory policies that are small enterprises friendly since many of what we have in Kenya, frustrates every effort of a junior entrepreneur. The policies we have seem to care for the well-established businesses. Since majority of small enterprises lack finance, government should establish friendly small loaning system. This would include low interests rates to ensure the continuity of these businesses. SMEs have the potentiality of transforming the economy of a crippling nation.

As such, every effort should be made to boost their growth. By Anthony M. Wanjohi Wanjohi is an experienced Researcher (education and social sciences), Educator, and an Author. He is qualified in both natural and social sciences. He holds postgraduate diplomas, one in education and another in projects management (both from The Catholic University of Eastern Africa – CUEA), a bachelors degree in Biology (Madras University, INDIA), diplomas in software engineering (INDIA) and philosophy and Religion (Tanzania).

He is the Director of Research and Projects with Kenya Projects Organization (KENPRO); an author with Jomo Kenyatta Foundation and an online academic writer with uvocorp. com and essaywriters. net His experience in research, training and projects management spans over a decade. He has command in a wide range of fields: data analysis, project planning, implementation and evaluation, strategic planning, grant proposal writing, web and graphic designing, among others.

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