The Kenyan government has taken a significant stride towards bolstering the growth and innovation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the country by inaugurating the second cohort of the Kenya Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme (KIEP 250+).

Led by the Ministry of Investments, Trade, and Industry (MITI), the initiative aims to fortify Kenya’s SME landscape and promote economic advancement. In an official statement following the launch of the KIEP 250+ Cohort II Call for Applications, Dr. Juma Mukhwana, the Principal Secretary of the State Department of Industry, emphasized the vital role played by SMEs in driving economic growth, generating employment opportunities, and fostering innovation.

Dr. Mukhwana underlined the government’s commitment to selecting SMEs from diverse regions across the nation, with a specific focus on empowering women-owned businesses. He announced the opening of the second application window for eligible SMEs to participate in KIEP 250+, highlighting the project’s ambition to create competitive, world-class SMEs that enhance Kenya’s manufacturing sector and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The KIEP project, a Sh 5 billion (USD 50 million) initiative implemented in partnership with the World Bank, offers performance-based grant funding for technical assistance to SMEs. The funds are designed to support these businesses in upgrading and achieving their full potential by identifying sustainable growth pathways and receiving expert guidance from business development service providers.

The program encompasses a comprehensive array of resources, mentorship, and financial support, aiming to address the challenges SMEs encounter in accessing finance, market opportunities, and technical expertise. The KIEP 250+ Cohort II Call for Applications invites SMEs from various sectors that have been operational for at least two years and have demonstrated potential for growth and innovation.

“Successful applicants will receive tailored support based on their specific needs and aspirations. This includes access to financing options, business development services, mentorship from industry experts, and networking opportunities,” explained Dr. Mukhwana.

In addition to offering support and resources, KIEP 250+ also aims to create an environment conducive to SME growth by advocating for policy reforms that encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. The program recognizes the importance of a supportive policy framework in enabling SMEs to thrive and contribute to Kenya’s economic transformation.

Dr. Mukhwana encouraged all eligible SMEs to seize the opportunity and elevate their businesses to new heights, highlighting that the grant funding could significantly impact their journey towards success.

Maarten Susan, the KIEP 250+ team leader, noted that Kenya’s SME sector has previously encountered market challenges, such as low productivity, limited innovation, and gaps in linkages between traditional industries and SMEs. KIEP 250+ addresses these issues by mobilizing resources to support the creation of a sustainable innovation ecosystem, guiding participating SMEs through various stages of improvement.

To qualify for the program, SMEs must be legally registered in Kenya, operating for a minimum of two years, and demonstrating an annual turnover ranging from Sh 50 million to Sh 1 billion. Additionally, SMEs must be nominated by a lead firm, financial institution, or business association, with a committed management team ready to embrace a performance improvement plan.

The program highly encourages SMEs that provide opportunities for persons living with disabilities (PLWD), youth, and women-led enterprises to apply for KIEP 250+, aiming to unlock their full potential, expand their businesses, and contribute to Kenya’s vision of becoming a globally competitive economy.

Launched in November 2020, the KIEP 250+ initiative, including the micro website and the SMARTME platform, endeavors to boost productivity, foster innovation, establish market linkages, and enhance capacity among SMEs in priority sectors.

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