February 17, 2024

Tourism Sector Boosts Somo Soko Expo at Fort Jesus Mombasa

Locals selling their goods at the Somo Soko market day (Photo By Rehema Jilo)

By Rehema Jilo

Email, thecoastnewspaper@gmail.com

The booming tourism sector has opened a brief window for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) entrepreneurs to make money due to an ongoing Somo Africa Trade Fair at Fort Jesus monument in Mombasa today, December 11, 2023.

As tourists continue to flock there, the monument has become a regional tourism hubs with Expo attracting over 100 firms from Western Kenya, Nairobi, Arusha (Tanzania), and Coastal Kenya. This gave an opportunity for tourists to sample out different products on display.

Somo Africa acceleration and investment manager Joshua Onialo asked different entrepreneurs from underserved regions to embrace innovation and seek marketing platforms from Somo platform.

“We are creating a solution to our entrepreneurs who have limited access to markets. We enable them to access credits and markets. To access markets has been a big challenge so we are giving them an opportunity to market through our channels,” he said.

Somo is a nonprofit organization that supports MSMEs with access to finance, markets and training in the country. According to him entrepreneurs should be sustained to spur regional economies.

Dubbed Somo Soko, the event gave an opportunity to entrepreneurs from low backgrounds to showcase and promote East African products such as food items, beauty products, crafts and hygiene items.

“Being the festive season, people are looking for gifts, and opportunity to meet. It’s a platform for the tourists to come and see products from the Expo and by doing so it’s a way of building the MSMEs economy,“ he added.

The exhibition also gave an opportunity for pitching competitions to equip local businesses in presenting proposals to investors, and pointing towards addressing funding constraints. He said they offer between Sh2 million and Sh2.5 million.

Just like other local businesses in the country, women-led ones also grapple with persistent challenges impeding their growth and value addition because they cannot access qualaterals so plans are underway to review financial models to assist them.

“We have been able to invest in 415 businesses, we have offered them training, mentorship and seed capital to help them start up, and even at the growth stage we walk with them through our low interest rate,” he said.

Some of the beneficiaries of the tradefair led by Mercy Ndungwa and John Steve Okumu expressed their joy with the entrepreneurships skills and technical skills they have received for their products.

“We get some of the customers wanting to see our products, many who are coming to fort jesus have given us an opportunity to network and sell our products, personally I am doing honey selling and it’s getting the best reception,” said Ndungwa.

Somo Africa had partnered with the Museum Fort Jesus and various Entrepreneur Support Organisations (ESOs) at Kenya’s Coast, including Sinapis, Kenya Red Cross and Kenya Climate Innovation Center.

“We take women through our training sessions on business literacy and financial reporting and after that we finance them to produce products like beauty and also help their families,” said Okuku Josphine, production supervisor – Tengeneza na Somo Initiative.

Others include Likoni Youth Empowerment Center, Swahili Pot, Inkomoko, Baus Taka, Youth Empowerment Program Initiative and Kenya Small Business Development Center.

One of the tourists, Carel Piehl from Netherlands, said such fairs gave opportunities to tourists to explore some of products Kenyans were innovating and in turn giving an opportunity for tourists to buy them,” she said.

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