The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) is the apex body of private sector in Kenya. The alliance brings together local and foreign business associations, chambers of commerce, professional bodies, corporates, multinational companies, start-ups, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) from all sectors of the economy in the country, representing over 1 million businesses. Without a doubt, since its inception in 2003, the alliance has ably positioned the private sector as a powerful force in driving economic growth, creating jobs and advancing opportunities that improve the well-being of Kenyan citizens and beyond.
In 2021, KEPSA held over 390 public-private dialogue engagements resulting in key resolutions and decisions to cushion businesses, boost competitiveness, and improve the overall ease of doing business, despite an erratic operating environment marred by the Covid-19 Pandemic.
While the success of the alliance is attributable to the input from its membership, divided into 17 sector boards that represent the various sectors of the economy, the central role, passion and firmness that the CEO, Carole Kariuki has provided over the years since she took the helm of KEPSA leadership, is more than a cog in the wheel. To KEPSA’s advantage, Carole Kariuki has been and remains tenacious, devoted, thoughtful and tough when the situation demands it, as a CEO. She has set the tone from the top and this has galvanized KEPSA when situations demanded this.
Key legislative changes include the alliance’s advocacy efforts in the ‘Prompt Payment Bill 2020’, which imposes sanctions on public and commercial institutions who fail to honour payment terms for the supply of products, works, or services to address challenges faced by the Kenyan supply chain. The bill passed by the Senate in 2021, is expected to be deliberated by the National Assembly in the next administrative cycle.
The Senate also passed the Start-Up Bill 2021, which established a framework to encourage creative thinking and entrepreneurship. Other significant bills enacted from KEPSA’s engagements with Parliament are the Business Laws (Amendment) Act No.2 of 2021, the County Outdoor Advertising Control Act, 2020, and the Sectional Properties Act 2020.
As Covid-19 ensued in 2020, the alliance’s focus quickly shifted to assist businesses in overcoming the resultant negative impacts. The ‘Economic Management Framework for Covid-19 Response,’ proposed by KEPSA, focused on preserving jobs and livelihoods by emphasizing employee, community, and healthcare worker health and safety. This was achieved through mobilizing private sector capabilities and resources to respond to the pandemic with a key focus to protect SMEs.
In May 2021, KEPSA signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Government for the rollout of the Private Sector Vaccination Programme, with the leadership of KEPSA successfully mobilizing its members, who, as a result, contributed close to Kes 3 billion in cash to augment the government’s effort in mitigating the spread of Covid-19.
KEPSA also launched the “Flowers of Hope” Project, which sent flowers to Kenya’s existing and new markets in Europe, as well as local hospitals, to share a message of hope and compassion while marketing the country.
Gender and Youth
SMEs have over the years immensely benefited from KEPSA’s lobbying efforts through training, market linkages, and access to finance initiatives. In 2020, KEPSA launched the Covid-19 Recovery and Resilience Programme (CRRP) in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation to provide SMEs with low-interest, collateral-free loans. This initiative provided Kshs 42 million in finance to 106 applicants with 78 percent of the beneficiaries being women-owned businesses.
Through its Business Sector Gender Mainstreaming Policy, launched in 2021 by the Gender Sector Board, the alliance has provided practical guidance for the adoption and implementation of gender mainstreaming in the private sector. KEPSA was awarded the Private Sector Africa Gender Award by the Gender is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) on June 14, 2022, in recognition for its work, leadership and mainstreaming of all issues gender, in Kenya.
KEPSA is a vocal supporter of youth empowerment. The alliance prides itself in having a platform housing over 1.9 million young people in Kenya who currently work online with an average earning of Kes 20,774 per month from digital and digitally-enabled work, as an outcome of the Ajira Digital Program
Ajira Digital Program is a collaboration of KEPSA and eMobilis, an initiative of the Government of Kenya through the Ministry of ICT, Innovations and Youth Affairs funded by Mastercard Foundation under the Young Africa Works. The Program aims at enabling young people in Kenya to access dignified and fulfilling work via the digital space. This space seeks to tap into the over 1 million Kenyans joining the job market every year by offering a sustainable solution with over 75% of Kenya’s population being young people. In addition to work creation, the program also provides digital solutions to both the public and private entities, that seek to reduce cost of operations by solving capacity issues by providing digital resources and talents.
Ease of Doing Business
Ease of doing business, economic diplomacy and market competitiveness remain top of KEPSA Agenda. Since April 2021 up to May 2022, KEPSA has hosted over fifty-two business forums, expositions, and conferences with the most recent being a high-level engagement dubbed Kenya-UK Business Climate Roadshow held in May 2022.
In encouraging business investments and innovation, KEPSA in conjunction with Trademark East Africa, launched the E-commerce Booster Programme in 2021. Out of the intended objective of 2,000 enterprises, the campaign received 2,545 applications and successfully on-boarded 1,605 firms with little or no e-commerce presence onto its various digital platforms.
KEPSA and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) also extended their MOU in 2021 with the goal of enhancing Kenya-US SME trade and investment. This in-turn gave rise to the US-Kenya SME Trade initiative, launched in March 2022, with the recruitment of the first cohort of fifty US and Kenyan SMEs. The SMEs will be facilitated to explore specific market access and business partnerships, with a focus on Kenyan and US women, youth enterprises, minority and other special groups.
In May, KEPSA CEO, Carole Kariuki, was among the invited private sector executives in Statehouse Nairobi, during the signing ceremony of the treaty of accession of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) membership to the East African Community (EAC), signifying KEPSA’s important role in advancing economic diplomacy in the region through trade linkages and market access.
KEPSA has also continued to play its role as the centrepiece of hosting foreign business organizations in the country. In 2021 alone, KEPSA hosted a total of 29 business forums which provided B2B, trade and networking opportunities, for the Kenyan business community and their foreign counterparts.
KEPSA is at the forefront in the fight against corruption to ensure Kenya achieves its developmental priorities as set out in the Big 4 Agenda, Vision 2030, the AU Agenda 2063, and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Notably, in 2011, the institution initiated the Corruption Risk Mapping (CRM) study in the public sector in 2011.
The KEPSA spearheaded Business Against Corruption Kenya (BACK) platform led to the drafting of the Bribery Bill which was enacted into law in 2016. The Act that came into force in January 2017, places obligations on public and private entities to put in place appropriate procedures commensurate with their size, scale and nature of operations, for prevention of bribery and corruption.
The alliance has also worked with the UN Global Compact Kenya Chapter to develop and champion the signing of the Business Code of Ethics, as a commitment to ethics and integrity by its members. Among the low-hanging fruits is the Suppliers’ Code of Ethics that has been integrated into the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Act.
Other wins derived through KEPSA’s campaign against corruption, include the Proceeds of Crime and Anti Money Laundering Act 2017, the establishment of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division at the High Court and the creation of a Multi-Agency Team against Corruption.
On the environmental front, KEPSA has been executing a number of projects to accelerate the transition from a linear to a circular economy. The Partnership for a New Plastics Economy in Kenya, for example, aims to reduce plastic waste by using a circular model for PET bottle recycling.
In addition to chairing, co-chairing, or partnering to launch various environmental initiatives, KEPSA has also curated, nurtured, and catalysed over 15 transformative public-private partnerships that are leading the way in providing market-based solutions for the implementation of sustainable development goals. An example is the ‘Business Plan Model for a Producer Responsibility Organization’ (PRO), first of its kind in the country and a collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF).
The organisation also participated in the UN High-Level meeting of the General Assembly on Financing for Peacebuilding, where the CEO, Carole Kariuki, made a presentation on the private sector in Kenya and the role it has played in Mkenya Daima and peace building, thus propelling the initiative on a global platform.
More importantly, KEPSA leadership recently contributed to the Pre-Election Assessment Mission conducted by the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute and the AU/COMESA/EAC team as part of its engagement with the international election observers in Kenya to discuss the state of preparedness by the country before the general election and the overall context of the polls.