Bakers in Kenya

Why Small-Scale Manufacturing is the future Post COVID-19 Pandemic

If there is a lesson that African governments have learnt or should learn from the Covid-19 pandemic, is the need to generate SME businesses in their own regions and stop or reduce over reliance on the West or the East. The pandemic has had its impacts on employment, it is more important than ever for local governments to encourage new job creation through expanded opportunities. Small-scale manufacturing can play a role in creating new jobs while also cultivating community-based entrepreneurship.Just like you, the term “manufacturing” conjures up the image of a large industrial plant spewing forth smoke and emitting strong smells and loud noises. Which is far from the realities of many people in Kenya. But most small-scale manufacturing operations don’t have any such negative impacts. But then the opportunity for many a youth in the country is their ability to  offer exciting job creation opportunities since most manufacturing jobs often start small build a brand over time, but give the chance to more. Given the high job creation potential, local governments should consider ways to encourage the types of small-scale manufacturing that would fit well into their communities.

Why Small-Scale Manufacturing?

Workers will often use hand tools and/or small machinery to make their goods. The stress of capital can be handled as the business grows. And African  youth are not short of creativity, what is needed is capital to support their ideas. Common examples of small-scale manufacturing include local food production and packaging, art, jewelry, clothing production, brewpubs, distilleries, etc.

There are three general categories of small-scale manufacturing, based largely on size:

  1. Artisan/micro-manufacturing (1-5 employees) — These businesses can easily be  operated out of a business owner’s residence and sell their goods through local venues (such as farmers markets). We have seen many manufacture masks, sanitisers, sanitiser dispensers, and the like to support themselves while solve some of the issues arising from the pandemic.
  2. Small batch production (6-20 employees) — This kind of business is highly encouraged for those venturing while still employeed and have the skills to support the businesses. Smaller businesses in this category may be located in a house or associated accessory structure while those with a higher number of employees are more likely to be found in a commercial space. We have seen salons, leather manufacturing, bakery, glass manufacturing, printers etc  venture in here. They will use a variety of means to sell their products, from community markets to a “front of store” retail space and external vendors.
  3. Moderate production (up to 50 employees) — This is a great target for professionals and experienced individuals with a solution to the market problems. These businesses are usually located within an existing commercial or industrial building and sell their goods through a variety of venues, including onsite as well as through external vendors. One example is a small/medium-scale brewing company.

Why Focus on Small-Scale Manufacturing?

This is the future for our country. Small-scale manufacturing promotes job growth. Further, small-scale manufacturing businesses are likely to provide “family wage/living wage” jobs, especially when compared to most retail jobs.

Artisan/micro-manufacturing, in particular, can also provide the opportunity for first-time entrepreneurs to start their own business, which they may not have thought about doing until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Encouraging Small-Scale Manufacturing

While Washington local governments are limited by the state constitution in their ability to provide direct financial assistance to businesses, it is still possible for local governments to encourage small-scale manufacturing businesses through a variety of activities, from zoning to outreach. Several potential actions have been listed below, which can also be applied to encourage non-manufacturing-based businesses.

1. Reach out to existing small businesses and local residents

As this pandemic has demonstrated, local businesses may need some guidance and assistance about available resources to help them during the pandemic and resulting business interruption. For instance, the central governments alongside their county chiefs have unrolled a number of initiatives to support businesses during this pandemic.  It is critical that local governments partner and collaborate with local and regional economic development organisations, chambers of commerce, and state agencies, even if there are in-house economic development/business assistance expertise. In addition, local governments should work with partners to reach out to area residents who may have recently experienced a job loss. These people may be looking for new opportunities to earn money, and micro-manufacturing may be a good option.

2. Encourage the reuse of vacant commercial buildings as business incubators/”makers spaces”

With the growing number of job losses, we can put to use some of the skilled but unemployed personnel into business incubators. Some options lie in redeveloping vacant and underutilised buildings into a low cost, shared business space to be used by budding entrepreneurs and businesses.

3. Make your commitment public by marketing it

Good initiative become better and widely appreciated when well marketed and the target users are able to access their benefits. Which county in Kenya, or which country in East Africa has been popularised as by marketing themselves as “business friendly” and backing it up with specific programs and actions? These gaps can easily be filled with the right marketing to enable the growth of small businesses.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had many devastating effects, including numerous businesses closing their doors and people losing their jobs. As a result, many local governments are exploring what they can do to help improve the economic situation of their local businesses and residents. While it may not necessarily be a good fit for every community, small-scale manufacturing is a job creation concept that is worth consideration.

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