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Facing and addressing the challenges as an SME in Kenya

The recent political and social skirmishes in Kenya have added an extra layer of challenges to the Kenyan business community, the SME sector being one of the worst affected. The reason I say this is unlike big business that have cash reserves that help them weather the storm, the SME sector commonly operates on working capital and day-to-day cash, the reserve that is there is primarily used to pay bills and source for new business. Many of the plans including for 2008 were based on positive growth in certain key sectors, Multiple Choices for instance was betting on the BPO sector that was showing some impressive growth as well the SME sector which would need a web presence and as such provide as with business, but this plans have been adversely affected to the point that some businesses are thinking twice about keeping their doors open.

So what next for SME's in Kenya? I think the first thing they need to do is come together to highlight the issues that they are facing and dialogue about possible solutions to these problems. I've found that when people come together under a common interest, in this case business survival, many "giant" problems seem small. It is with stakeholders that ideas are generated, emotions expressed and eventually solutions implemented.

The financial sector should also be brought in to assist the SME's by coming up with financial rescue packages that can alleviate the problem while providing a solid foundation for growth. It must be pointed that the financial sector is also affected by the situation in Kenya and as such any assistance they give needs to place them on a positive footing. The financial rescue package must not be seen as a long term crutch, but rather as a short term remedy to a long term problem that will still need to be addressed.

Moving forward the SME sector needs to adequately strengthen itself and come up with a solid solutions that can be implemented when the business environment has been adversely affected. I hope that in the next weeks or months, like minded people in this sector will come together and help each other to move forward.

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Born in Nairobi, Kenya, John Wesonga is a partner and the Technology Director of Multiple Choices, a communications company that builds web 2.0 applications for the Internet and provides strategic advice on Online Brands. His interests include: web development, blogging, mobile technology, Africa, and Kenya. His blog, Afropreneur, is one of the most popular online resources for news regarding business and technology in Africa. He is also currently a student at Strathmore University, where he is pursuing a degree in Business Information Technology.
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