Twenty individuals who are members of KCB Bank Uganda’s business club have been flagged off to Tokyo, Japan where they are traveling to benchmark best practices by Japanese enterprises.
The team was officially flagged off on Friday at the KCB Bank headquarters in Kampala by KCB’s Managing Director, Edgar Byamah and the Deputy Head of Mission at the Japanese embassy in Uganda, Mizumoto Horii.
The 10-day trip to Tokyo is part of the bank’s systemic approach to grow Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda by offering businesses a platform where they can entrentch their current experiences with those in countries that are advanced.
While speaking at the event, Edgar Byamah said the trip which is the fifth that the bank is organizing seeks to help the Ugandan businesses expound on the knowledge and expertise that a first-world country like Japan is putting in effect.
“This trip is set to benefit KCB Business Club members across electronic, technology, agriculture and entrepreneurial stages in their companies’ lifestyles,” he said.
Dr Jeff Sebuyira, Chairperson of the KCB Board said the trip to Tokyo is an opportunity to not just to expose the entrepreneurs to practices in Japan but to also network with other business players as well as get business ideas.
“The important thing is to bring that exposure back and apply it here. And as a bank, our is to see how we can support you because when these businesses grow, we also grow,” he told the team.
In Uganda, SMEs employ about 2.5 million people and account for 90% of the private sector, according to Uganda Investment Authority (UIA). Statistics indicate that 49% of the SMEs are in the service sector, 33% in commerce and trade, 10% in manufacturing and 8% in other sectors.
Mizumoto Horii from the Japanese embassy in Kampala said that SMEs continue to play a significant role in Japan’s economy, accounting for 70% of the national employment and 50% of the GDP.
“In my country, the existence of SMEs supports the base of the Japanese economy. During the 2011 tsunami, supplies were cut off in many parts of the country and that’s when we realized the importance of these SMEs because they bridged the gap,” he said.
He advised the Japan bound individuals to use the trip to identify new areas of business and develop new partnerships for mutual benefit.
“I would like to encourage you to learn how SMEs in Japan have been able to use innovative Japanese technology to improve their businesses while at the same time making use of Japanese traditional customs like customer care,” he told the team.
He as well implored them to find out how some of the businesses in Japan have managed to sustain their brands and operations for as long as 100 years.
According to Godfrey Senteza, the Head of SME banking at KCB, members who visited Germany and Turkey during the 2018 trip have since replicated innovative solutions among which include the diabetic shoes designed to reduce the risk of skin breakdown in diabetics with pre-existing foot disease.
He explained that the bank offers cheap financing to SMEs as well as training these businesses in brand building to help address the challenge of sustainability.