The COVID-19 pandemic is having a big impact on nations, communities, families and businesses.
Most economies have responded with large measures, not only for the health sector, but for the economy as a whole.
Unfortunately, many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are missing out on these big measures. In many emerging countries such as Ghana, reducing the impact of COVID-19 and charting the path to a regenerative economy, during and after the pandemic, may not lie in big financial stimulus packages for all types of businesses in general.
A targeted and tailored support for eco-inclusive SMEs that are more concerned about social and environmental issues is essential.
SMEs are the backbone of our economies. According to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), MSMEs engage roughly 70 per cent of the total workforce.
More impactful SME actors (i.e. green, inclusive and locally led SMEs) described as eco-inclusive enterprises are the key. They contribute significantly to local job creation efforts, economic growth and the sustainable management of natural resources.
They are a growing community of enterprises providing practical solutions to social and environmental problems that favour the underprivileged, including economically active women and unemployed youth, through the provision of renewable energy; waste management solutions and the production of low-cost durable products from recycled materials.
One of such companies produces a cereal called DIM Fonio. It is an eco-inclusive SME called AMAATI based in Tamale.
They process and market high quality indigenous gluten free fonio-based cereal containing proteins, vitamins, and iron. AMAATI does not only provide employment opportunities for landless women, but also restores large acres of infertile lands through fonio (this is a type of millet native to West Africa) cultivation which has soil nutrient regenerative capacity.
As we battle the COVID-19 crisis together by rethinking business models and pathways for rebooting economies, it will be a missed opportunity not to target such small, but impactful enterprises.
We can’t afford a return to the pre-COVID-19, business-as-usual economic paradigm; a situation that has adversely affected our rain forests and rich biodiversity.
As we put post-COVID economic programmes in place, why don’t we seize the opportunity to support these actors, big and small that can help us reboot, but also ‘green’ our future?
Why not offer targeted support so they can create and capture a virtuous cycle of employment, provide stable profits and preserve our natural environment for improved well-being?
What does targeted support for SMEs mean? It is about deliberately identifying, training, funding and rewarding productive and environmentally conscious SMEs.
It also means connecting such SMEs with a promising future to market opportunities that allow them to expand and tap into national, as well as international value chains.
Such support packages are rare, but are always needed, especially after emergency programmes or funding run out.
Consider another agriculture-related enterprise called AgriCentric Ventures; a start-up which promotes climate-smart agriculture by buying agricultural waste and using low-cost technology to process them into very high value agro-products, such as, bio-fertilisers, bio-pesticides and dietary supplements for livestock and fish rearing.
The company seeks to reduce the cost involved in food production and the overreliance on synthetic chemicals.
These enterprises and several others operating in Ghana are making conscious efforts to balance the scales of economic opportunity with social inclusion and environmental preservation.
It is such eco-inclusive SMEs that we must intentionally support to grow and help scale up during and after COVID-19 to transition Ghana’s economy to a more circular one.
COVID-19 is dangerous and its impact on lives and businesses is no small matter, so we need to look beyond how big to precision in SME support to build a progressive and an inclusive future.
The writers are the Ghana Coordinator and Head of Acceleration Programmes, respectively, at SEED.
Source: Daily Graphic
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