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Men own largest share of formal SMEs in Kenya - report

Women businesses remain marginalized in terms of funding and access to networks.

In Summary

•The Survey sampled 571 formally registered SMEs. Of these, 61 per cent, 349 businesses were identified as man or men owned.

•Women businesses remain marginalized in terms of funding and access to networks.

A customer at a kiosk in Westlands, Nairobi.
SMES A customer at a kiosk in Westlands, Nairobi.
Image: FILE

A large majority of formal SMEs in Kenya are owned by men as women continue to face considerable barriers, a recent survey shows.

The Sourcing2Equal Kenya report conducted between 2020 and 2022 by World Bank's International Financial Corporation shows only about a third of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises are owned by women, spotlighting existing gender gaps.

The Survey sampled 571 formally registered SMEs. Of these, 61 per cent, 349 businesses were identified as man or men owned.

SMEs make up a large part of Kenya’s economy, accounting for approximately 98 per cent of all businesses.

They are spread across all sectors of the economy as they provide about 80 per cent of total employment,  the sector also contributes up to 33.3 per cent of GDP.

According to the survey, women- owned SMEs are disadvantaged in terms of access to finance, business networks, supply chain connections, and market information.

"Women struggle to qualify for public and private sector procurement contracts," the report released on Thursday read.

This comes as Kenya ranks among top Africa start-up markets attracting investment opportunities for entrepreneurs. 

Go Gaga Experiential CEO Norah Mumo during the Digital and Technology Week in Nairobi in June estimated annual funding for Kenyan start-ups to hit Sh100 billion in three years despite lack of state funding.

Data by the report shows majority of women owned SMEs are in  agriculture, agro-processing, business services, pharmaceuticals, tourism and hospitality and catering. Conversely, there are more male and joint SMEs in construction and communication services.

Sourcing2Equal is an IFC program developed in partnership with the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) and Norway.

It aims to increase access to markets for at least 5,000 women owned small and medium enterprises (WSMEs) through improving private sector procurement opportunities in four countries by 2023.

Increasing these businesses access to corporate procurement opportunities in Kenya is also part of their objectives.

This is Sh7 billion more compared to Sh41 billion raised in the whole of 2021.

In 2021, the sector created 14.5 million jobs despite the global Covid-19, according to the Micro and Small Enterprises Authority (MSEA).

At least 15.1 million jobs had been created in 2020.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), about 400,000 micro, small and medium enterprises have  been dying within the first year of inception, in the last five years, raising concern over sustainability of this critical sector.

Latest report by the Micro and Small Enterprises Authority (MSEA) shows majority of small businesses are yet to benefit from state-backed bailouts and funding under the credit guarantee scheme.

In September 2020, the government established a Credit Guarantee Scheme for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, as part of its interventions to cushion them from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, monies MSEA says has not benefited the targeted groups.

Prolonged business shutdowns, depressed demand, and value chain disruptions created considerable operational and financial pressures on SMEs, threatening the survival of many viable enterprises and entrepreneurs.