Invest In Africa (IIA) has, in a bid to offer solutions to the challenges facing small businesses in the country, introduced projects that seek to address the skills gap, access to market, and access to finance by SMEs.
In an interview with the B&FT at the SME CEO Summit held in Accra, Country Manager of IIA, Clarence Nartey, threw light on how his outfit is helping to address these challenges.
“In terms of the skills development programme, we have the business linkage programme which is funded by the finance arm of the African Development Bank and they have put in about US$1 million over a three-year period.
And other partners have also supported in kind worth about US$3 million. So, in a sense, we have about US$4 million in kind which is a skill development programme. For this, when you are a member of the IIA family, you have an opportunity to access this help.
Then there is Business Accelerated Programme (BAP) which is targeted at medium-sized businesses looking to go to the next level of growth. With this type of support, all interventions are more managerial-based,” he said.
He emphasized that the IIA has extended focus to the above interventions because SMEs will still find it challenging to be profitable if their financial needs are addressed without the necessary skills to manage their companies.
“Invest in Africa provides SMEs with access to skills, access to market, and access to finance. Sometimes, we see that it is not only the case of finance that is the main challenge. It is the case of whether the basic book keeping is in place; whether you have management systems in place; whether people are able to put together strong businesses plans to access capital.
So, in all these areas we are trying to support, on one level, by helping to provide skills intervention to upscale them in these areas to have sound book keeping, solid management systems, to stand the chance of getting access to finance,” he said.
Aside the skills development, the IIA also helps SMEs with access to market through the African Partner Pool (APP) which is a platform where SMEs are linked to buyers and suppliers across Africa, and discover new opportunities and grow their business.
He also added that his outfit is able to assist SMEs with access to funding through its donor funding facility and partner banks, such as Ecobank Ghana, to provide loans to its members.
Commenting on how the IIA has impacted his business, Kofi Akuamoah, CEO of Right Consult, a company that supplies, installs and services electronic security and fire management systems, said without the skills development training from IIA, his business wouldn’t have seen growth.
“Before joining IIA, we were doing business the way we like. We were not keeping good records, and our operations were not well-structured. But when we joined them, they took us through training that has reshaped our corporate vision.
We have also had training sessions that have helped us know how to keep our books and be tax compliant. The training we have had has really impacted our business. Our revenue is constantly increasing; we have employed more people; and we have become more efficient,” he said.