Government endorses, pledges support to startups enabling body launched in Kenya

By / May 22, 2019 : 12:37 / BUSINESS / No Comments
Government endorses, pledges support to startups enabling body launched in Kenya

The Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Industry Trade and Cooperatives has backed the launch of Association of Startups and SMEs enablers of Kenya (ASSEK); the body that brings together start-ups and SMEs intermediaries such as Incubation and innovation hubs, co-working space, accelerator programs and SME related business support service providers who work directly with SMEs and startups across Kenya.


According to The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, SMEs contribute to over 35% of the GDP, employing over 30% of the population that constitute 98% of all registered businesses.The Association’s objective is to create a platform that will drive policy and agenda for members of the Association with the government, Development partners, investors and other key stakeholders, to develop rigorous ecosystem standards and guidelines.


Speaking during the launch, ASSEK Chairperson Bernard Chiira said that SMEs and startups face systemic challenges leading to high mortality of over 75% within three years of starting. These challenges include accessing finance, markets, information, infrastructure as well as unsupported policies and management skills short comings.

“There is a need for sustained and inclusive intervention that involves all SMEs and startup ecosystem players. ,”

said Chiira at the launch event in Nairobi.

Jonas Tesfu- CEO Pangea Accelerator, Florence Kimata-SME Advisor Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperative and Bernard Chiira-ASSEK Chairperson share a light moment during the Launch of ASSEK.

According to World Bank reports, Kenya’s population was at 47.8 million in December 2018 while the unemployment rate was at 9.37%. The share of the youth in unemployment rose from 60% to 72 %. And the rate of joblessness is almost 40% of youth, or an estimated 5.2 million young adults. This is double the adult average of 21 percent.

Addressing startup enablers at the launch event, Advisor to the Ministry of Trade and Industry Florence Kimata noted that Kenya’s vision 2030 sets an ambitious target to become a middle-income country by 2030. This goal not only requires uninterrupted growth of 10% per year but will also demand citizens with globally-competitive skills.

‘We are committed to not only achieving our national development goals but also the global Social Development Goals. Improvements in the macro economic conditions are not enough to reverse these statistics and trends. Economic opportunities driven by a high growth rate must outpace the increase in population currently estimated at around 2.9%. We will therefore require, Science, Technology and Innovation to improve human lives. The role of social innovation in addressing the rapidly increasing and dynamic needs of a youthful population is extremely fundamental,’

read her speech in part.

The newly launched organization will facilitate capacity building, professional development, networking and partnerships, compliance and protection to its Members in their efforts to develop the ecosystem and support startups and SMEs. This will promote and position the Kenyan entrepreneurial ecosystem internationally, by creating visibility on key innovation and startup ecosystem indicators, enhancing public awareness of the ecosystem, and increasing the discoverability of startups for support and investment.


‘We as governments ponder on the best way to address the ever demanding economic, social and environmental challenges. The Big Four Agenda pillars namely; manufacturing, food security and nutrition, universal health coverage and construction of affordable housing presents key development priorities intended to address expectations of Kenya’s population. The role of ASSEK in bringing together actors and enablers within the innovation ecosystem to provide a framework for cooperation for entrepreneurial activity cannot therefore be underestimated,’

she added.

ASSEK brings out a platform that eases the sharing of information, knowledge and best practices between the members; forging close linkages with stakeholders (including but not limited to universities, research and development institutions, corporations and business association).   This enables members to actively scout for and where necessary facilitate access to opportunities through collaborations and partnerships.

Deputy Ambassador Embassy of Finland in Nairobi Ramses Malaty who signed a working partnership with ASSEK said,

“We are today delighted to sign a memorandum of agreement with ASSEK. This partnership will guide cooperation between ASSEK and Finland through the Nairobi Embassy and promote collaboration between Finnish and Kenyan ecosystem. We will work together to facilitate member access to various opportunities in the quest for a sustainable ecosystem for startups and SMEs’

Bernard Chiira-ASSEK Chairperson signs a Memorandum of Agreement with Ramses Malaty- Counsellor Deputy Head of Mission Embassy of Finland in Nairobi.

The association, which was registered in December 2018, has been engaging ecosystem players to assess the needs of the ecosystem players and to involve different stakeholders to ensure Kenya is promoted and positioned as a global partner and player in the entrepreneurship sector.

The launch comes at an opportune time when President Uhuru Kenyatta just launched Kenya’s Digital Economy Blueprint with a mission to make Kenya a nation where every citizen, enterprise and organization has digital access and the capability to participate and thrive in the digital economy. With emphasis on businesses, innovation and entrepreneurship, the Blueprint has proposed implementation for creating a regulatory framework for investments and innovations, encouraging smart society and networks, strengthening privacy and data protection, enabling new business models for micro and small enterprises and striving for excellence in digital technology research and innovative ecosystems.

L-R Basil Malaki, Victor Otieno both Board of Directors, Bernard Chiira-Chairperson Board of ASSEK and Board Member Ann Ichungwa.

The government is currently conducting a nationwide mapping exercise of all Entrepreneurship Enablers. The respondents of the mapping exercise will be recognized as the official enablers and included in the National Database that will be a key source of information on the Ecosystem.

‘Our goal is to initialize data collection for purposes of informing policy decisions and enhancing the coordination of an institutional framework to deliver support to innovation and enterprise development.The formation of ASSEK will create a collective voice to rally support from all stakeholders within the entrepreneurship ecosystem,’

she concluded.

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