Business News of 2014-07-14

Invest in Africa to address skills gap in SMEs

Invest in Africa (IIA), an independent non-profit partnership organisation, is to offer critical business skills training to small and medium scale enterprises in the country. The initiative is to help the beneficiary SMEs to become more internationally competitive to face the emerging challenges in the business community.

The Country Manager of Invest In Africa, Mr Sam Brandful, announced this when he paid a courtesy call on the Daily Graphic, the flagship newspaper of the Graphic Communications Group Limited. Invest in Africa is an independent non-profit partnership organisation established in 2012 to actively support investment in Africa. Ghana is currently one of its priority markets.

Mr Brandful told the Editor of the Daily Graphic, Mr Ransford Tetteh, and the acting Editor of the Graphic Business, Mr Charles Benoni Okine, that IIA’s mandate was to, among other things, create a better way of working in Africa by building partnerships between international investors and local businesses.

That, he said, would be achieved by raising the profile and quality of Ghanaian SMEs to make it easier for international investors to find the best local firms to partner with. “This would serve as a platform to gain visibility for Ghanaian SMEs and connect them with potential foreign and domestic clients,” he added.

In its resolve to find practical solutions to the shared challenges of operating on the continent, Mr Brandful said IIA sponsored a qualitative and quantitative research to unearth the main obstacles Ghanaian SME’s and entrepreneurs faced in growing their businesses.

The findings, he said, showed that the major challenge SMEs encountered was a huge information & communication gap between multinational corporations and local suppliers, including a lack of awareness of credible local firms by multinational companies and basic challenges for local firms in accessing tenders. This, he said, would be addressed in programmes to be introduced by the firm.

Invest in Africa’s training modules and practical ‘how to’ guides aim to bridge the significant gap the research found between the key policies and procedures multinationals generally adopt before working with a local firm and what is currently in place. Other challenges in the report included the much-lamented access to financing, high interest rates, taxes and levies, high operational costs and inadequate infrastructure.

Although IIA’s objective is to proactively promote growth and development in the private sector, it also recognises the pivotal role that the government plays in creating the right environment for businesses to flourish, particularly with regard to policymaking and legislation, which is why IIA partnered with leading private sector companies, alongside key public sector institutions such as the Ghana Investment and Promotions Centre (GIPC) and Association of Ghana Industries (AGI).

Mr Brandful expressed his gratitude to the Daily Graphic and the Graphic Business team, and added that he saw the media as an important ally in Invest in Africa’s quest to open communication channels and create awareness of ways to ameliorate the challenges in the business and investment environment in Ghana.

IIA is supported by an increasing number of partners. These are Tullow Oil, EY formerly (Ernst & Young), Lonrho and Ecobank, as global partners while GIPC, AGI, UT Bank, Guinness Ghana Breweries Limited (GGBL), and AB & David Law make up the group of local partners. Mr Tetteh and Mr Okine both pledged the commitment of their newspapers to collaborate with the IIA to provide the needed support to enhance the growth of SMEs in the country.