At least 46 Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) have graduated from the pandemic-response online Business Continuity and Survival Training that was organized by the Employment and Skills for Development in Africa Programme (E4D) in September 2020.
The E4D programme is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and is co-funded in Uganda by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and implemented by GIZ.
This training was delivered by ACLAIM Africa Limited in partnership with Absa Bank Uganda Limited and targeted SMEs in the construction, manufacturing, tourism, and hospitality sectors. The training was designed to build the capacity of SMEs in some of the worst-affected sectors of the economy to help them manage the economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The training was grounded on a needs-based assessment of each SME to identify business processes that required improvement. It covered eight modules, namely: Building Financial Management Systems; Financing a Business; Managing Costs Effectively; Business Planning, Modelling and Management; Acquiring and Retaining Customers; Running Business Online; Leading and Managing People; and Managing Risk in Business. Together, the modules built the capacities of SMEs to make sound strategic decisions thus ensuring business continuity through crises such as that created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Fiona Komugisha, the Project Manager at Environment and Social Safeguards International (ESSI), one of the participating SMEs, says the training and coaching was helpful, and her enterprise is applying many of the learnings.
“Having gone through cost management models, we have been able to cut down unnecessary processes and steps in our payment processes. We were also having a lot of defects in manufacturing, but now, with the application of TIMWOODs (a model that helps organizations identify key areas of waste to improve their agility and efficiency in operations), we have changed our power source to solar and have reduced on defects as a business, thereby increasing efficiency and productivity. The business has also shifted to utilization of local materials and recruitment of labour from the village within which the business is situated/located. Furthermore, we have adopted performance management systems to help us understand the business and evaluate our performance,” she adds.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony for the businesses at Mestil Hotel in Kampala, Donald Agaba, the E4D Uganda Team Leader said, “I admire your spirit of entrepreneurship and the commitment with which you have undertaken this training and seen it through to the end. The skills you have learned from here will play a great role in the growth of your businesses as we embark on the journey of economic recovery.”
While addressing the graduating businesses, Mumba Kalifungwa, Absa Bank Uganda’s Managing Director, said, “The pandemic adversely affected the economy and more so SME’s, some of which were unable to withstand the shock. SMEs, especially those in the tourism and hospitality sector, have perhaps been the most affected by the local and global interventions put in place to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This training was essential to equip business owners with the knowledge to better navigate these uncertain times.”
He added that the participating SMEs that have completed the training will be considered for a discount on interest rates on credit facilities from Absa.
The Business Continuity and Survival Training and Coaching was implemented in collaboration with Uganda Tourism Association (UTA), Uganda National Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors (UNABCEC), Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Uganda (FMSE) and Uganda Manufacturers’ Association (UMA).
“We remain cautiously optimistic following the decision to fully reopen the economy, which signals a ray of hope for business recovery and the economy in general. To move Uganda and Africa forward, we are going to need collaborative efforts across the board to bridge the skills gap that is holding our SME sector back,” Mumba said.