Invest in Africa extends emergency COVID-19 programme to SMEs and other local businesses

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Invest in Africa (IIA), a private sector-led initiative focused on growing local businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, has taken the decision to make its membership-based services offering COVID-19 support free to any small or medium-sized business (SME) in Africa.

The new ‘COVID-19 SME Survival Toolkit’ includes webinars, practical guides, solutions and recommendations to help African SMEs get through the many challenges the pandemic represents. All content can be accessed online, for free, and has been created specifically for African SMEs.

Established in 2012, IIA operates locally in five countries across the continent (Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Zambia, Mauritania), acting as a catalyst for SME growth and competitiveness by providing training, improving access to finance and mitigating supply chain risks.

This latest COVID-19 survival programme is focused on supporting SMEs through the current period of economic uncertainty, and available to all SMEs across Africa via the Invest in Africa website (www.investinafrica.com).

“Because the vast majority of businesses in sub-Saharan Africa are SMEs, they also provide nearly all employment opportunities – so ensuring their survival is critical to longer-term economic growth prospects,” commented William Pollen, IIA’s CEO. “What we’re aiming to achieve through this programme is not only to enhance SMEs’ chances of surviving this crisis, but also to help them emerge stronger and more resilient.

“We are an SME ourselves, and as an organisation dedicated to supporting small, local African businesses the decision to roll-out a specific COVID-19 response initiative, for free, was made immediately. While survival is the new theme of 2020, SMEs are in danger of being forgotten about. IIA wants to ensure they don’t get left behind by arming them with practical support, built over years of experience, that can be implemented now; focusing on business-critical issues like cash flow, cost reduction, procurement and HR.”

Invest in Africa works with an extensive network of partner organisations, including the UK Department for International Trade in Africa, to effectively support and accelerate SME business growth. The latest initiative launched by IIA as part of the COVID-19 programme is a series of virtual training sessions in partnership with these organisations, offering courses such as ‘The 100-Day COVID-19 Business Recovery Plan’ in partnership with EY and ‘Formulating Solutions to Support Female-led SMEs’ in partnership with IFC.

Trade Commissioner for Africa at the UK Department for International Trade, Emma Wade-Smith said: “Having restated the UK’s commitment to being Africa’s investment partner of choice at the UK-Africa Investment Summit in January, we want to reiterate our support to our African partners during this unprecedented economic challenge. SMEs are critical to the resilience of local economies, so we fully support the efforts of Invest in Africa to assist them and the initiative to offer free access to this useful toolkit, especially as trade and investment will be so essential to mitigating the economic impact of COVID-19.”

Mr. David Ofosu-Dorte, Executive Chairman, AB & David Africa – one of IIA’s partners, had this to say: “In Africa where economies are predominantly SMEs-led, the socio- economic impact of COVID-19 will be massive.  Forward-looking initiatives focused on helping SMEs survive the storm and position them to be more resilient is exactly what IIA is providing to help local businesses prepare to take advantage of AfCFTA opportunities. One of the obvious lessons of COVID-19 is that it is important not to be over-dependent on one region for the business supply. With a Pan-African network of 5,000 suppliers across the continent, IIA is well-positioned to contribute to building long-term capacity and competitiveness of SMEs in the supply chain; and this programme will really make a difference to how SMEs ride the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

With unprecedented financial stimulus packages being put forward by governments and central banks to support SMEs, another key part of IIA’s COVID-19 programme is highlighting to SMEs what support is already available and how to access this funding.

Commenting on the initiative, Godwin Locher, Founder of Ghana-based SME Lightingale Ltd., said: “I must say this is a great initiative by IIA in support of SMEs in these difficult global times. One of the biggest challenges has been knowing how to access the government SME stimulus to support our ongoing projects and supplement our working capital. The effort IIA is making to educate businesses about government programmes for the SME sector is greatly appreciated”.

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