Invest in Africa (IIA), an organisation focused on using stakeholder partnerships to address challenges facing small and medium enterprises (SMEs), has inaugurated a three-year needs-based programme to improve the skills and governance within 120 enterprises from different sectors across the country.
Dubbed the ‘Business Linkage Programme,’ it will offer hands-on training to the SMEs with both technical assistance and mentorship to improve standards and quality of their products and institute sound governance structures that could bolster their chances to access credit from banks and win contracts from big corporations and multinationals.
The participating SMEs, which will be picked from the African Partner Pool (APP), an online cross-sector business directory for SMEs, will be assessed for their business needs and given mentorship over a period until the needs gaps are closed.
IIA, is an organisation that is focused on tackling shared private sector challenges, set up APP and design the BLP.
The Business Linkage Programme is being sponsored by the African Development Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA).
FAPA is funded by the governments of Japan and Austria. The current support is a $4 million grant which will train the SMEs over a three-year period.
The Ghana Manager of IIA, Mr Sam Brandful, said private sector initiatives such as BLP had become important because SMEs contributed significantly to the economy and should be encouraged to grow.
Statistics indicate that SMEs contribute about 85 per cent to manufacturing employment, which accounts for about 70 per cent of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product, and represent 92 per cent of companies registered in Ghana.
“Despite the huge presence, their ability and capacity to win business contracts remain small. So we brought together stakeholders to help sharpen the skills and governance of the 120 SMEs. This will also improve their chances of accessing finance,” Mr Brandful said.
The APP currently has more than 600 registered SMEs. The platform, which also brings the members together for business networking, boasts legal and business advisory consultants, multinationals and big corporations and banks.
The Chief Country Programme Officer of FAPA, Mr Sam Turay, said supporting the private sector was at the core of the bank’s current 10-year strategic plan and that it supported BLP because the model was one of the fastest ways to promote SMEs.
He said the AfDB would continue to support IIA to implement such programmes to achieve the overall objective of private sector growth in the country.
The Head of the Economic Section at the Embassy of Japan in Ghana, Mr Noriaki Sadamoto, said SMEs were important to Ghana’s economic growth, just as they were in Japan, accounting for 99.7 per cent of all businesses in the world’s third largest economy.
He expressed the belief that SMEs in Ghana could adopt and implement the Kaizen concept, a Japanese word and management philosophy which meant ‘continuous improvement’, which is the cornerstone of every Japanese company, society and individual worker.
“Kaizen, continuous improvement, is a never-ending process. I strongly believe that African countries, including Ghana, have the potential to realise this Kaizen-oriented development,” Mr Sadamoto stated.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Ghana Industries, Mr Seth Twum Akwaboah, who represented the AGI to launch the programme, said big corporations should not be quick to write off SMEs but make conscious efforts to make it possible to source from them.
Mr Akwaboah pointed out that bringing assistance to SMEs was a partnership between the seller, the buyer and facilitators, requiring that each stakeholder should sacrifice and make the effort to support small businesses to grow through patronising their products.
Source: Daily Graphic
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