In June 2008, the Kenya Export Promotion Council (EPC) requested JICA Kenya to look for a Malaysia SME consultant to help in facilitating the second phase of their Trade Training Project. ERA resource person Ong Song Howe was assigned and accepted to carry out the project through the recommendations of Massa and ERA.
Ong’s service started from October 2008 and ended in November 2010, involving a total of 8 trips and a span of 11 months. During the project period, Ong helped the EPC to finalise the Trade Training Programme comprising four modules:
Train the Trainer, Product Development and Adaptation for Export, Export Marketing and finally, Export Logistic and Finance.
To ensure the sustainability of the programme, Ong started a project to train and certify local consultant trainers so that they in turn can carry out the training on their own. A total of 14 trainers were called to help in the programme but unfortunately, only seven of them passed and continued their service.
The Trade Training Project had been organised in Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kisumu, Malindi and Nakuru in Kenya. Besides the four modules, networking sessions were held with the participants from time to time to better understand their difficulty in practising what they had been taught. During the last three years, more than 60 classes had been conducted and over 1500 participants benefited from the programme.
During his stay, Ong observed that the Kenyan SMEs had some constrains and challenges in their business development. Primarily, they maintained their traditional ways of doing business that could not compete anymore in the global market and they should take a deeper look at the Asian market and understand it well because Asian countries will be their main competitors from now on.
Due to political factors and an absence of proper infrastructure support, their production cost is high and they become less competitive in the export market; The Government has just promoted ISO9001 to the SMEs, which was far behind the global requirements.
On the other hand, it was really a good opportunity for Malaysian SMEs to export their products and services there because our products and services are more advanced and they are cheaper to Kenyans than those from more advanced countries.
As in the case of most developing countries, the pace of doing business in Kenya is slow and thus, our SMEs need to take some time to develop business relationships with their Kenya counterparts.
Due to the global support; the next five to ten years will see a number of funding going into African countries to help in their economic development and Kenya has been touted as the gateway to East Africa countries, with a number of United Nation agencies stationed and operating there.
It is a good window to penetrate the East African countries market. The only constraints to consider are their tax and political climate that have created some uncertainties in the business environment; especially for foreign investors.