The maiden edition of the Graphic Business/Access Bank SME Clinic will take place today at the Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra.
The event, which is on the theme: “Boosting SME Resilience with Digital Solutions,” will generate dialogue on the need for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to transform their mindset in order to excel in their enterprises.
The forum will set the tone to develop a situation in which entrepreneurs can see themselves beyond the present into the future, add value to their businesses and become more competitive.
Again, the SME Clinic is to provide the needed support in diverse ways to help alleviate SMEs from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
SMEs vs COVID-19
Earlier, some operators in the SME sector called for increased assistance in the area of digitalisation to help them increase their value and productivity, especially post-COVID-19.
They said adopting digital tools could help the avoidance of a complete halt of their businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
In an interview on how the SMEs are bouncing back post-COVID-19, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Giddins Innove, manufacturers of local leather footwear and handbags, Mr Gideon Dendzo, said going digital became a matter of life and death worldwide and many SMEs which showed their ability to change their business models survived.
He said the situation had created an unprecedented reliance on digitalisation such that his company took advantage of the lockdown to engage its customers through digital and social media platforms such as WhatsApp.
“What really helped us was that we had a recovery product realising that weddings, work and other events were on the low and so people did not need shoes, though at any point in time they needed footwear,” he said.
Another entrepreneur, Mrs Gertrude Kunde-Kwallinjam of SmockyWorld, producers of quality hand-woven smock fabric and smock-made ready-to-wear apparels, said her company leveraged digitalisation to improve business operations and customer satisfaction.
“We need more of the digital push which sometimes take a lot of the cost and profit. For now, everybody seems to be on digital level and that’s how to spread the news,” she said.
For her part, the CEO of Aquatic World Industries, an SME engaged in the production, processing and sale of fresh tilapia and cat fish, Ms Mabel Quarshie, corroborated the need for a further push for entrepreneurs to go digital.
She noted that even before COVID-19 some awareness was created on the need for SMEs to adopt digitalisation to help reduce costs, standardise and automate business processes; enhance their competitiveness and also understand consumer behaviours.
“COVID-19 taught us to take digitalisation seriously because if you can sit at home and still sell it is better, so you won’t put yourself at risk.
“Support should really come from there because right now most of my sales come through online and other social media platforms,” Ms Quarshie stated.
The Graphic Business/Access Bank SME Clinic will host speakers such as the Divisional Head, Retail Banking at Access Bank, Mr Stephen Abban; the Group Head of Business Banking at Access Bank, Mr Kafui Bimpe; the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Enterprises Agency, Mrs Kosi Yankey-Ayeh, and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Mr Seth Twum-Akwaboah.
Leverage for Africa
The Managing Director (MD) of the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Mr Ato Afful, underscored the need for Africa to leverage its knowledge to chart its own course to ensure the speedy development of the continent.
“There is so much knowledge that sits in some pockets of the continent that should be leveraged across borders. It is not always up to us to go and find something on other continents to import to Africa. We understand Africa, we live here and we know how the continent works,” he said.
“Usually, you will find that it is mostly the World Bank or an organisation somewhere which is charting a course for a continent that understands itself. We live here and we are the only ones who understand how the continent does its business,” Mr Afful added.
For his part, Mr Bimpe stated that the SME sector was one of the critical sectors of the economy which could help improve the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country.
The Group Head of Business Banking at Access Bank noted that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had adversely affected SMEs in the country, hence the need to create platforms for them to be able to leapfrog.
He said due to the pandemic, consumer behaviour had changed completely, indicating that it was time for businesses to start doing things out of the normal to enable them to thrive.
In order for SMEs to grow within the current situation, Mr Bimpe said they needed to be supported with innovative digital solutions.