SMEs to benefit from three-year intensive training programme

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are set to benefit from a three year programme that offers essential business skills and governance training.

Known as the Business Linkage Programme (BLP), it is a brainchild of Invest In Africa (IIA) and funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA).

At the end of the programme it is expected that about 120 Ghanaian SMEs will be helped to raise their standards, build capacity, access finance from participating banks, and access the supply chain of international companies.

Invest in Africa (IIA) is focused on supporting local Ghanaian businesses by providing greater access to finance, skills and markets, making it easier for international companies working in Ghana to source locally and at scale.

Its mission is to facilitate long-term and sustainable local partnerships by ensuring that SMEs registered on its African Partner Pool (APP) — an online business platform that connects international companies (including banks) to quality, credible and validated local SMEs — are able to competitively bid for global tenders, and are equally capable of delivering goods and services to quality, time and scale.

Speaking at the launch of the BLP in Accra, IIA’s Country Manager Sam Brandful said the APP and BLP complement each other, as only high growth potential SMEs validated on the APP can be selected for the BLP.

“Graduates of the BLP will be able to showcase their newly-acquired BLP skills on the APP by applying for tenders posted on the APP and attending new business and procurement forums exclusively available to APP members.”

Another benefit of the BLP is that successful SME graduates will share their knowledge and business experience with other SMEs on the APP via the ‘Business Growth Hub’, a library of best practice guides written for SMEs and hosted on the APP website.

According to the AfDB, SMEs contribute to about 85 percent of manufacturing employment, which accounts for about 70 percent of Ghana’s GDP and represent 92 percent of companies registered in Ghana.

Therefore, creating supportive ecosystems like the APP and BLP where SMEs can raise standards, learn new skills and access finance can have a notable impact on revenues, job-creation and economic growth.

At a panel discussion before the launch, several speakers including Charlotte Amanquah, Deputy Head of SME Banking, Ecobank; Papa Kow Bartels, Director, Logistics and Value Chain Division of the Ministry of Trade and Industry; Edward Amartey-Tagoe, co-founder Nandi Mobile; Jacob Ainoo-Ansah, SME Development Consultant; and Angela Diyuoh, Business Linkage Programme Coordinator, discussed the common challenges SMEs face in Ghana and how the Business Linkage Programme supports SMEs to access new clients, skills and finance.

Under the topic ‘Developing SMEs in Ghana to be globally competitive: the role of skills development and Business Linkages’, it came to light that scarcity of requisite knowledge, finance, research, information, data and infrastructure are just a few of the challenges impeding the progress of SMEs in the country.

The speakers called on stakeholders including government, the private sector and development partners to work harder at instituting many more SME support schemes and programmes.

Since launch of the IIA in late 2014 it has featured over 36 tenders with a transaction value of over US$16million; it has over 600 registered local SMEs on the APP and 12 large corporates buying local services from the platform.