The SMEs: Fueling the Recovery and Economic Growth - U.S.-Africa Business Summit

The SMEs: Fueling the Recovery and Economic Growth session
July 21, 2022

 

On Thursday, July 21, 2022, At the U.S. – Africa Business Summit, a panel session was held on The SMEs: Fueling the Recovery and Economic Growth. The panel focused on the role of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in contributing to innovation, job creation, and global economic growth, as well as on the need to scale up. The session, moderated by Nadia Hasham, Trade Policy Expert, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, featured private and public sector speakers.

Nadia begins the discussion by addressing the reality that the African continent faced the triple shocks presented by COVID, commodity, and climate crises. The session analyzed policies, capacity building, market access, technologies, and financial tools being deployed by governments, institutions, and private sector entities to support SMEs to recover, thrive, and to drive economic growth and strategies SMEs have employed to successfully weather crises and build resilience. Fatima-Zohra Hakam, Founder of Zora Chocolate, highlighted that for SMEs and startups, the power of collaboration with the large business for sourcing practices, manufacturing, policy regulation, and value addition is beneficial for both parties as there are opportunities to share experience and expertise. Carole Kariuki, CEO of Kenya Private Sector Alliance, echoed the sentiment of collaboration and affirmed that companies could not do it alone. Among other supports, KEPSA links SMEs with large business for supply chain, policy engagement, and access to market and finance. 

Samir Lebbar, Senior Vice President, North Africa, Procter and Gamble, highlighted that for P&G, SMEs are an integral part of its supply chain. As a result, P&G provides continuous support on access to finance and women empowerment programs while learning from SMEs on business acumen needed in the local marketplace. Underscoring the importance of diversity and inclusion for P&G, Samir indicated that diversity and inclusion had brought a competitive advantage to P&G's business globally.  

Representing a Moroccan government agency that focuses on supporting financial inclusion, Hicham Zanati Serghini, CEO of TAMWILCOM, shared an understanding of the market, sharing risks, access to finance, and partnership with the private sector are critical for success.  From the U.S. government, Travis Adkins, President, and CEO of the U.S. African Development Foundation, emphasized the importance of small things in business and life. While there is no guarantee for success, for companies with three years track record, USADF provides funding support. USADF believes in sharing the risk and responsibilities; as such, it works with cooperatives to provide financial support.  USASDF had a growing list of partners to expand its resources to strengthening African SMEs and improve the availability and affordability of the financing they need to scale and make a greater impact in their communities.  The session focused on a linkage program for access to market and sourcing. Ejike Egbuagu, CEO of Moneda, from the African private sector, emphasized the need to create value addition from African businesses to create wealth. For African value addition to work, developing an African content strategy is essential. 

Panelists answered questions about the essential interventions required to grow SMEs in Africa and shared experiences to build brands and networks.