Kenya was given the privilege to host the 14th United Nation Conference on Trade and Development in Nairobi and they have not disappointed so far. I went for the first official day of the conference on 18th July 2016 and everything seemed to work perfectly well than the normal Kenyan way of doing things.
First I picked my badge from Nairobi City Hall and the process was pretty fast and smooth. This made me think we should call all our services in public offices “International services” so that the level of courtesy and effectiveness I observed at city hall today can be maintained even after UNCTAD14! But that’s beside the point; with my badge well indicated that I am a guest, I confidently walked into KICC without any trouble. The security in and around the venue was well organized and I came across a few security officials who seem to have been lectured before-hand about being courteous and polite.
Youth Forum Tent
My next stop after the security check was at the Youth Forum tent. This was a natural stop-over for me; first as a youth and second as a development conscious one. I found an interesting topic going on about challenges that youths getting into entrepreneurship face. Well, this is fascinating to me as I deal will young entrepreneurs each and every day of my work life supporting them through business consulting and investment advisory.
The youths highlighted financing, skeptical markets and lack of traction as the major problems they face when they want to expand their operations, acquire new customers and raise funding to fund their growth. The solutions provided were direct and very specific. To access financing from a bank, you need to have a business account with them and start transacting through the account to create a relationship with the bank and build trust. When you go to get financing from them later on, the trust you have built over time will help you access some financing; though like in most cases not all the amount you needed. However that will still be a step in the right direction.
On skeptical markets, the solution provided was on building value for your customers and they will pay you for it. Customers care more about how well your product or service is solving their problems than they care about how much time you took to develop it. Focus on customer needs through human centered design and meet them at their needs. Of course you need to use the right marketing channel to reach them and create awareness about your products for them to eventually buy from you.
I later joined a forum on SDGs and moving from decisions to actions on the same. We had a high-level panel discussion and the key emerging issue was that we need to deal with the issue of inequality if we are to implement SDGs successfully. Inequality came out in two major ways: income inequality and gender inequality. For income inequality, we need to address it through a multi-stakeholder approach where the trade unions, governments, corporations and civil society need to work together in setting minimum wage rates and reviewing them to match the costs of living. On the gender inequality, the importance of empowering our women economically, socially and politically can never be over-emphasized.
There was a light touch on the use of tech as a tool to help implement the SDGs in an efficient and effective way. Russia is already doing this by prioritizing technology in its development agenda. In addition, the key role of policy formulation by local governments to support SDGs implementation was discussed at length.
Unleashing the power of e-commerce for development
Later in the evening I went for a forum which I thought was very important to every SME across Africa and beyond. The forum was on unleashing the power of e-commerce for development. Key take away was that we are in an era whereby business transactions are moving online and we need to build capacity for SMEs to be able to tap into the growing online business. Four major areas of focus going forward should be investing in internet infrastructure on which e-commerce will run, streamlining global online payment systems, aligning on policies and regulations on online cross-border trading and investing in logistics to facilitate smooth movement of goods from sellers to buyers. Just to have a preview of how much business we are talking about; in 2015 sales on global e-commerce markets were valued at about USD2.2 trillion for B2C platforms and about USD19.9 trillion for B2B platforms.
Considering I just gave you a bird’s eye view of the day’s events and learnings, seems like I had a good day so far at UNCTAD14. Of course I later attended the opening reception and networked a little bit and made a few new contacts.
“Tomorrow is another day, as the clock keeps ticking away, time is so precious and so I say” – Don Carlos