Small businesses need digital skills to thrive

The Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development (MoITED), the Micro and Small Enterprise Authority (MSEA), Stanbic Kenya Foundation, Microsoft Kenya and the African Center for Women, Information and Communications Technology (ACWICT) have partnered to equip 50,000 small business owners with digital skills.

Dubbed “Future Ni Digital”, the initiative aims at supporting the government in its efforts to promote digital technologies and ICT as a way of creating employment opportunities and improving on public service delivery. It is also part of a program that was launched earlier this year with the key private sector players and government.

“Continuous skill improvement is key for survival in today’s dynamic market environment, that is why we have come together to address the knowledge and skill gaps in digital literacy that will benefit 50,000 MSEs. This partnership is timely and oriented to the Authority’s strategic direction of focusing key service delivery functions on digitization and innovation to better serve the MSE sector,” said Henry Rithaa, the CEO of MSEA, a state corporation under the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development mandated to promote, develop and regulate MSEs in Kenya.

First phase of the training, which is expected to place 2,000 youth into employment by the end of this year kicked off at the Kariobangi Centre of Excellence and will be expanded to multiple counties across the country. The program will offer online digital entrepreneurial skills to assist the MSEs to expand and grow their businesses in the ever-changing digital market. 

MSE’s contribution significantly to economic growth of the country, yet a number of them are still struggling to survive. The digital skilling program aims to address this gap by providing individuals with access to and knowledge of innovative tools for their sustainable development and equal opportunities.

It is because of this that 192 trainers have already undergone the requisite training in a bid to kick off the mass training of the entrepreneurs. Stanbic Kenya Foundation and Microsoft Kenya have also deployed an online learning platform to enable learners to access content and further develop their skills.

The trainers are drawn from the Micro and Small Enterprise Authority (MSEA), the Kenya Industrial Business Training, Uasin Gishu and Nakuru counties as well as County industrial development officers from around the country. In total, over 1,000 trainers from different government agencies will be trained to become instructors who will then engage with the various MSE’s and upskill them on how to leverage on online and digital platforms to grow their businesses.

The Stanbic Kenya Foundation donated ten laptop computers to the MSEA Training Center at Kariobangi and are set to donate a total of 400 computers to the other training centers across the country.

“As a bank, we seek to elevate businesses and individuals and empower them to achieve their dreams. Many enterprises in the country are still struggling to recover from the effects of the global pandemic, and we have seen that having digital skills is key to survival. Building the capacity of Kenyan citizens by providing access to resources and knowledge is in line with our objectives as part of our non-financial support,” said Charles Mudiwa, Stanbic Bank Kenya chief executive.

Microsoft Country Manager for Kenya, Kendi Ntwiga said the organization’s involvement in the initiative stems from its mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

“Microsoft has operated in Africa for close to 30 years. In that time, we’ve built strong partnerships across the continent, helped bridge gaps in infrastructure, connectivity, capability, and we are working to assist the continent to digitally transform while creating sustained societal impact,” said Ntwiga.

“It also represents our desire to support the Kenyan talent and create innovative solutions for local and global impact while also addressing the existing gap in some of the required digital skills for the new age,” she added.

According to Constantine Obuya who is the executive director of ACWICT, the implementing partners, the goal of the program is to accelerate skilling and employment prospects for 50,000 underserved, out of school youth in Kenya to ensure an inclusive economic recovery post COVID-19 pandemic. “The project responds to the challenge of high youth unemployment in Kenya, which has further been compounded by the outbreak of the pandemic. The impact we hope to achieve is a skilled, resilient, and thriving youth effectively optimizing digital opportunities for improved livelihoods,” said Obuya.

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