CBI
CBI
Business development in East Africa

Strengthening
African SMEs

CBI external expert Mark Kwami helps CBI implement its ECPs in developing countries, where he mentors and coaches SMEs. It calls for a lot of sector knowledge, an all-round understanding of what makes a successful business, a good understanding of the value chain, a high level of cultural sensitivity and the capacity to understand the challenges faced by SMEs. He also acts as an intermediary between SMEs and the European markets. “This is not easy because buyers and sellers have diverging expectations.”

Business development in East Africa

A product and industrial designer by trade, Kwami found that typical of the challenges facing SMEs were the ability to develop products to suit European design trends and having the ability to produce and supply this market. “When coaching SMEs we teach them how to design products that will hopefully sell in Europe and help them organise their production so they can supply the right quantity, quality and price. Both are important, but the latter makes exporting sustainable.”

Business Development Module

Between 2007 and 2012 Kwami realised that African SMEs had weaknesses in key business areas, so to help them in this area CBI introduced a new Business Development Module. The ECP, East Africa, is the first one to pioneer the use of this new module. For the first 12-18 months it omits all export-related issues, concentrating instead on basics such as financial administration, costing and pricing, production organisation and workforce management. “The initial focus is to strengthen SMEs in their domestic and regional markets, using them to test new product collections and build up production capacities, before moving to the next level, namely exporting to Europe.”

Business development in East Africa

Feedback received by Kwami from participants of the new module has been good. “They now understand basic financial issues and can keep track of their expenses, sales and profitability. It’s given them a rewarding feeling of being in control.” He is convinced that the module will make ECPs more inclusive for weaker SMEs in Africa and other world regions and he hopes it will be translated to other sectors in Africa, such as textiles and food and vegetables. “This new module helps SMEs lay the foundations for a successful business. Irrespective of whether an SME eventually exports or focuses on its domestic and regional markets, our goal is to ensure they can grow their businesses profitably and sustainably.”

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