Kenya’s micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are gearing up to participate in the 23rd East African Community (EAC) Exhibition and Trade Fair, scheduled to take place in Bujumbura, Burundi, from December 5 to 15, 2023.

At least 300 Kenyan MSMEs are set to attend the fair, showcasing their products and services to regional and international buyers. The event is expected to attract over 1,500 MSMEs from across the EAC region.

Co-operatives and MSMEs Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui has emphasized the importance of the event, noting that it provides a unique opportunity for Kenyan entrepreneurs to:

  • Share knowledge and forge new business links
  • Launch innovative products and services
  • Conduct test marketing
  • Enhance the brand and corporate image of their products and enterprises

Chelugui has also urged the committee responsible for vetting the participating SMEs to ensure representation from all 47 Kenyan counties.

The EAC Exhibition is an annual event that brings together MSMEs from the EAC’s partner nations to expand their reach into new markets, share technologies, and enhance regional integration.

The recent inclusion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the EAC has significantly expanded the market size and GDP, making the EAC region more competitive and easily accessible to the larger African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Intra-regional trade within the EAC has been on an upward trajectory, with the value recorded at $10.17 billion (Sh1.5 trillion) as at September 2022.

The EAC industrialisation strategy targets to increase intra-regional manufacturing of exports relative to total manufactured imports in the region to at least 25 per cent by 2032.

Chelugui has urged Kenyan MSMEs to explore trade and investment prospects in areas such as agro-processing, education, health, finance, energy, light manufacturing, and construction.

The CS has also emphasized the importance of local sourcing and deepening value chain frameworks to ensure business resilience, especially as economies recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This initiative will involve enhancing MSME awareness, transparency in digital markets and trade, and compliance with international quality standards, ultimately enabling Kenyan businesses to enter foreign markets more easily.