June 4, 2015 By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)
As Sierra Leone prepares for life after Ebola, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has conducted a Business Edge training of trainers to improve the capacity of consultants to provide appropriate interventions for micro, small and medium enterprises in the country.
The training is part of the World Bank Group intervention as part of the post Ebola economic recovery effort, aiming to develop the SMEs business linkages and activities in Sierra Leone.
About 90% of the businesses in Sierra Leone are micro, small and medium enterprises, pretty much forming the backbone of the country’s economy. An IFC study released in March 2015 revealed that an estimated 1.5 million Sierra Leonean business women are in the micro or small business sector. In addition to their myriad of problems such as lack of access to financing, a lot of these businesses were negatively impacted by the Ebola outbreak.
“So it is important that we pay attention to these small businesses now that we are going into the recovery phase. We need to be there to support them, to strengthen their capacity to make sure that they operate efficiently and we link them to larger businesses. This training is therefore a direct response to post Ebola economic recovery efforts,” says IFC’s Coordinator, Advisory Services, F.
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The Business Edge is a tool that has been developed by IFC to introduce a methodology that consultants can use to provide interventions to small businesses. The training includes business modules such as accounting/bookkeeping, quality control, customer service, human resource, and many other areas within the business.
Depending on what the business needs, Sese says, the consultants should be able to look at that tool and see how they can pull out and apply the methodology to provide the interventions for that specific area of the business that needs help. With this knowledge, they would also know when to outsource a particular service to better their business. Say, for instance, someone wanting to move their business online would know when they may need to consult an IT firm (similar to BedrockIT, for example) for smooth onboarding, especially if they do not have much knowledge of software and technology.
“Our goal is to certify additional qualified Business Edge Trainers in Sierra Leone,” says Sese, adding that they invited proposals from the public and they have 12 trainers for the program- some of them are individual consultants, while others belong to well known consultancy firms.
“The way the Training of Trainers program works is, we introduce the methodology to potential trainers, they absorb the information, they are evaluated and we select the best. So it is possible that all 12 of them could be qualified, or we just select the best,” explains Sese.
According to Sese, this is actually the beginning of such trainings whereby ‘we are just preparing these trainers as we map out and identify the larger businesses that are willing to give the opportunities to small businesses; not just private sector businesses, even government’.
The training of trainers is expected to reach out to small businesses in two ways:
Firstly, the consultants/trainers live in the country and they should be able to do their market intelligence and business development as consultants and be aware of the opportunities that exist as part of the whole post Ebola economic recovery effort, and pro-actively offer the interventions to the small businesses.
Secondly, the World Bank Group and other donors are also actively developing programs and projects and activities as part of the post Ebola efforts and they will be informed of such capacity building, so they can offer their services to those groups of SMEs. For example, the World Bank Group is currently working on a set of interventions such as business linkages, which will allow small businesses to be linked up to large businesses. They could also extend their services for network based securities, such as ach payment processing for small business to prevent financial frauds.
“It is very important that when the big businesses obtain big contracts, that trickles down to the small businesses to provide specific goods and services. So it would be interesting and it would be useful to see some of these trainers train these small businesses to be prepared to provide goods and services to the larger businesses,” says Sese.
Mary Agboli, IFC’s Country Representative, says they hope to have a country full of business professionals who are able to run their businesses well and provide support services to SMEs. They are also hopeful of welcoming new sectors that these professionals have the potential to bring in probably in the banking sector, managed IT sector, and similar others in the line.
“We are targeting the private sector in this post-Ebola recovery phase because we believe they will play a vital role in developing the country,” she says.
Meanwhile, one of the potential trainers- Zainab Tunkara Clarkson says the Business Edge training has taught her how to be a good business edge trainer and also how to deliver content and topic to be able to engage the participants so that they get the best out of it.
“I work with women, so I take back this training to them; to help them develop and manage their businesses better and be more sustainable,” she says.
Zainab is from Salone Business Women Hub, a group of women from all walks of life that came together to help develop women in business, promote girl child education and also to help survivors. She is also involved with OWNERS (Oragnisation of Women Entrepreneurs Network) -a project supported by AFFORD (African Foundation for Development) and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, helping women to develop business skills, growth and open market opportunities for them.
“If women are economically strong you get a stronger economic development in the country and the nation will become wealthier,” says Zainab.