Invest In Africa (IIA), an enterprise that accelerates the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, is partnering with the Mastercard Foundation, to launch a programme that will support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Eastern and Western Africa to navigate commercial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ‘Business Advisory and Support Programme’, with a commitment of US$1.69 million from the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program, aims to restore local economies by creating more sustainable businesses and generating work opportunities for Africa’s young people.

The programme will support businesses and young entrepreneurs to build immediate and long-term resilience through online learning resources; provide guidance on accessing markets and finance; and foster greater inclusion of young people, particularly young women.

The programme consists of two components and will run until June 2022. The first is a virtual training programme, an expansion of IIA’s ‘COVID-19 SME Survival Toolkit’, which will enable an additional 8,870 MSMEs in Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal to access online masterclasses, peer-to-peer sessions, and a repository of practical guides.

The second component of the programme will provide Ghanaian SMEs with technical support and enhance business linkages in the manufacturing, agriculture, extractives and ICT sectors, where there are supply shortfalls. These SMEs will also be supported in building relationships with lenders and investors.

Established in 2012, IIA operates locally in five countries across the continent (Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Zambia, and Mauritania), stimulating SME growth and competitiveness by providing training and enhancing access to finance, as well as supporting job creation and local economies. Much of this is a product of IIA’s extensive network of supporters, some of which will be involved in the programme, including Tullow, EY, and Absa.

Francis Kofigah, CEO and Managing Director, Dough Man Foods, a local Ghanaian doughnut bakery, and a beneficiary of the Business Advisory and Support Programme commented, “I am excited about Invest in Africa and the Mastercard Foundation’s joint programme because of the new nuggets of wisdom I’m going to pick up that will allow me to strengthen my business and push it to the next level. The masterclasses are just the icing on the cake. I can’t wait.”

IIA’s CEO, William Pollen said, “SMEs account for the majority of business and employment opportunities across Ghana, Kenya, and Senegal, and have unfortunately been the hardest hit by the pandemic. According to a recent Central Bank of Kenya study, over 70 percent of Kenyan SMEs risk collapse and 78 percent are concerned about job security. The survival and continued development of SMEs are critical in restarting economies and resuming their previous positive growth trajectories.

IIA wants to ensure SMEs maintain their status as key economic drivers by providing practical support, built over years of experience, that can be implemented to resolve pressing challenges around liquidity, cost cutting and procurement.”

Clarence Nartey, Country Director, IIA Ghana added, “According to our insights, cash flow management and liquidity are the most pressing concerns to local Ghanaian businesses and we are directing our efforts to helping them connect with potential financiers, opening access to around USD10m of capital. Another key issue that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront is the importance of building stronger localized supply chains. The programme will leverage our extensive reach and widespread network to provide business linkages, plug market inefficiencies, and strengthen local Ghanaian supply chains.”

Nathalie Akon Gabala, Mastercard Foundation’s Regional Director, Western, Central & Northern Africa explained, “We are committed to working with partners such as IIA to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on Africa’s youth and to support economic recovery so that communities can rebuild for the future. Business advisory and professional services provided through this program will enable MSMEs in key sectors to effectively navigate disruptions caused by this crisis, keep enterprises operating, and protect jobs.”