How African Partner Pool (APP) will transform and empower SMEs

According to the 2016 National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Survey, lack of markets and local competition was identified as the top two most common challenges by MSMEs.

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Time and Technology have however not been kind to these SMEs, due to lack of skills, finance and opportunity to grow  most SMEs have painfully been driven out of market devastating millions of communities.

The Scenario is not any different in Africa, according to the 2016 National Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Survey, lack of markets and local competition was identified as the top two most common challenges by MSMEs.

Going to banks for loans is not an option for these SMEs especially in Kenya right now, where Banks are shying away from lending loans to high risk struggling SMEs.

Not anymore, Invest In Africa (IIA), a non-profit organization which was launched in 2012 in the United Kingdom with a vision to create thriving African economies, is willing and able to change this sad story once and for all.

IIA-Kenya, which came into the country in October 2015, is set to launch the African Partner Pool (APP) platform on Thursday 6th April to support SMEs.

Andrew Juma, marketing manager Invest in Africa, Kenya looks forward to the launch.

"We are very excited about the APP launch. It is a multi-device website aimed at empowering SMEs - so whether you have an iPhone, an Android device or a Windows device, you will be able to access it. A small business person will be able to connect and do business with a multinational or large local corporation"  He said at the sidelines of the SME Fest 2017.

After entering the Kenyan market, IIA commissioned a research study in conjunction with Strathmore Business School to understand small businesses so that they can interact with them from a position of Knowledge.

“The Kenyan economy today is not the same as it was in the 1990s, we have come a long way and that has culminated in the launch of APP” Juma chipped in.

Essentially this is what African SMEs can look forward to witnessing once APP rolls out.

Training

Small businesses have often complained about the lack of opportunities as a result of lack of market knowledge, in Business Information is power and SMEs have been left in the dark for far too long.

“Most small businesses normally complain of lack of knowledge: where do I get contact with Tullow  for instance? Well not any more: at Invest in Africa we, and our partners, believe for small businesses to prosper we need to give them opportunities to grow.”  Juma said.

Since its launch IIA has since partnered with leading private and public companies across sectors such as Tullow oil, Safaricom equity bank, Nation Media group, Ernst & Young to name but just a few have all pledged going forward to offer tenders and opportunities to small businesses to enable them grow.

Capacity Training

Well business opportunities are there but are Kenyan small businesses positioning themselves to effectively utilize these opportunities?

“Small businesses want training, they want to be taught how to efficiently set up and run their businesses according to the international best practices” Juma adds.

APP is ideally an online marketplace that allows SMEs to promote the products and services they can deliver and the standards they can deliver to. So that if a multi-national company comes and gives them an opportunity they are confident they can deliver to the acceptable standards they want.

The capacity building programme content is being fine-tuned along with partner institutions, and it will be a mixture of real-time classes and online training.

The business skills training programme will for instance train SME owners on the importance of filling tax returns in time among other things in order to avoid turning their booming businesses into fugitives.

Classes are expected to begin in the last quarter of 2017.

Finance

Most SMEs complain of lack of access to finance and that’s where Equity bank comes in.

Through APP, small business will be able to seamlessly access finance, what this means is if one wins a tender but he/she does not have finance to execute the order, Equity bank will provide them with the requisite finance to complete the tender and then later get paid once the entrepreneur has received their payment.

This is revolutionary and has the potential to impact communities in a massive way.

“Ultimately, if an SME grows, they impact more lives directly. Think of the Mama Mboga: when she grows and employs one person, invariably the person is from her immediate local community. That family then has an income and gets better. So the more Mama Mboga keeps growing, the more people she employs and the more families she impacts - these small businesses and their supply chains sustainably grow communities", Juma said beaming with pride.

IIA is focused on job creation and improving the business environment for both investors and local SMEs. They do this through creating sustainable cross-sector partnerships, empowering local enterprise, championing private sector-led growth and simplifying doing business in Africa.

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