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Access Bank/ Graphic Business SME Clinic: SMEs asked to leverage digital tech tools

BY: Ama Amankwah Baafi
Abigail Padi (1st from left) a Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business Studies, Takoradi Technical University, interacting with some participants after the SME Clinic

PANELLISTS at the Access Bank/Graphic Business SME Clinic, have underscored the need for SMEs to leverage digital technologies to improve the efficiency of their business operations.

Mostly accomplished entrepreneurs, the panellists held the view that such a move would help businesses to flourish even under the most challenging circumstances.

Justifying the need for digital technologies, they drew lessons from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and the raging Ukraine-Russia conflict which has badly affected businesses and noted that the lessons from the two major global events makes it imperative for the adoption of digital technologies to stay afloat.

Digital technologies are electronic tools, systems, devices and resources that generate, store or process data. Well known examples include social media, online games, multimedia and mobile phones.

During the third edition of the Access Bank/Graphic Business SME Clinic held on September 14, in the Oil City of Takoradi in the Western Region, the entrepreneurs recognised that digital transformation was one of the driving forces behind long-term growth and success in the current business world.

About 100 SMEs attended the SME Clinic, which was on the theme: ‘Unlocking the potential of SMEs through digitalisation’.

The clinic has become a major platform created for SMEs to appreciate the need for them to be steadfast to grow and create opportunities for themselves and the economy as a whole.

Experiences

Sharing their experiences during a panel discussion, the Chief Security and AMYL Officer, IT Consortium, Ebenezer Aton Yawson, narrated how his business started about 20 years ago with just one person and grew to five’

He also shared the commitment of the company not to spend but consistently plough back earnings into the business.

He said the company now had a wide range of customers and continued to look out for problems that could be solved with technical solutions from end to end.

Mr Yawson said digitalisation had become the next big thing and plays a core part in everything that is done today.

He urged entrepreneurs to invest in technology tools to be able to expand their business.

Challenges

For her part, the Chief Executive Officer of Akroma Plaza, a hotel that has become a household name in Takoradi, Rebecca Oduro, recounted the history and the successes behind the business.

She said it started as a breakfast serving and bakery business by the family and noted that even at its present state, it is still being run by the family.

Later, she said a lot of business ventures were explored and some failed while others succeeded including Akroma Plaza.

“We have had our challenges. We have diversified into other areas which were not successful. It is not as easy as you think it is. But with credibility, truthfulness and honesty, the business grew through access to funding facilities.”

“It didn’t take a day for us to get to where we are,” she said.

Ms Oduro explained how Akroma had leveraged financial payment systems and social media, mainly, as digital tools to increase the visibility of the business.

“Now customers are able to place orders and pay through mobile money such that they only pick them up when they get here and don’t have to wait. We also have an online chatroom for feedback to be able to improve upon our services,” she said.

Digital finance

A Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Business Studies, Takoradi Technical University, Abigail Padi, said finance was the blood that drove business and, therefore, SMEs should be able to increase investments in their business to make them sustainable.

She said digitalisation was the way to go to access finance to improve businesses and cited crowdfunding (the use of small amounts of capital from a large number of individuals to finance a business venture) as a key tool to finance business the digital way.

She urged entrepreneurs to make use of the global village to source finance for their businesses and outlined some business principles they should observe to succeed.

“Do not buy new things when we can use used ones, do not buy used ones when you can lease, do not lease when you can borrow, do not borrow when you can batter, do not batter what you can beg for, do not beg for what you can scavenge, do not scavenge when you can get for free, do not take for free what someone will pay you for, do not take payment for something that people will bid for you,” she said.

Knowledge for devt

An economist and lecturer at the University of Ghana, Prof. Godfred Bokpin, noted that development, whether at the individual level, household level or national, was knowledge-intensive.

Prof. Bokpin said more people, particularly the youth, spend more time online than go to where businesses are actually located and, therefore, any attempt to attract the youth should be done through digitalisation.

“It also means that you could be working in Takoradi but if you employ digitalisation you can attract people all over the world to what you do,” he said.

He commended Access Bank for the investment in SMEs towards ensuring their growth.