The Kenyan government will step up its support to women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as a critical part of the private sector as well as a source of new products and innovations which will anchor future growth, says the Cabinet Secretary (Minister) for Public Service and Gender Affairs, Sicily Kariuki.

Empowering women translates to creation of more jobs, reduced poverty and improved balance of trade as women-owned businesses account for 48 per cent of all SMEs in Kenya, contributing 20 per cent to the economy.

The government’s Economic Transformation Agenda, which includes creating a conducive business environment for job creation, is hinged on women and youth empowerment. “Investing in sectoral transformation will ensure broad-based and sustainable economic growth as well as help realize agricultural transformation to ensure food security,” Kariuki said here Tuesday.

The government has invested 3.2 billion shillings (about 31.6 million US dollars) through the Women Enterprise Fund to provide affordable credit to women. So far, more than one million women in 64,000 groups have benefited from the low-cost loans disbursed through the fund.

Another 12.7 billion shillings have been disbursed through the Youth Enterprise Development Fund which focuses on enterprise development as a key strategy to increase participation of the youth in economic development.

Kariuki said the success of activities being undertaken by the youth as well as women depended on infrastructure development, including transport, energy and water, as catalysts for growth and development.