In line with Access Bank Ghana’s goal of building resilient, thriving businesses among Ghanaian Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, the Bank in partnership with Graphic Business organized its third edition of SMEs' Clinic at the Akromah Hotel in Takoradi, the Western regional capital.
The clinic on the theme 'Unlocking the potential of SMEs through digitalization' brought together seasoned entrepreneurs and experts in the field, business owners in and around Takoradi and virtual participants, to share insights into digital trends that SMEs could leverage to thrive.
Speaking on behalf of Access Bank’s Managing Director Olumide Olatunji, Kafui Bimpe, Group Head of Business Banking for Access Bank noted that statistics show that SMEs contribute about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide. This notwithstanding, SMEs are grappling with the negative impacts of global health crisis.
“Results from a COVID-19 Business Tracker Survey conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2020 revealed that about 35.7% of firms had to close, 46.1% reported reduction in wages, 4.0% reported staff layoffs during the peak of COVID-19 in Ghana”.
Kafui observed that in recent times, the 3Cs -Covid, Climate change and Conflict appear to deepen the plight of SMEs thus the need to consciously deepen discussions and proffer solutions. In view of these, Access Bank has partnered with Graphic Business to reach SMEs with skills in digitalization to empower them to be resilient.
“We identified through engagements, key areas for support at the previous SME clinics held in Accra and Kumasi, and helped to proffer solutions such as funding, business advisory, and equipping them with digital skills to make them resilient in supporting our nation's economy even better than before.
The guest speaker for the event, Prof. Bokpin, an Economist and professor of Finance at the University of Ghana Business School, touched on important factors SMEs need to thrive. Among others, Prof. Bokpin explained that SMEs needed to understand how technology apps could be used to manage businesses. He said “Digitalization is not only for people who are skilled in using computers. It is an asset everyone can leverage”. He stressed the need for a management team, proper bookkeeping, customer service, and the need to avail themselves for training as measures SMEs could take to succeed.
He encouraged participants to make use of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCTA) which Ghana has signed up to. “The AFCTA has given a wide market to SMEs. Now you have access to over one billion people to transact with, but it also means you must position yourselves to be identified for business”, he added.
Abigail Padi, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Business Studies, Takoradi University, also touched on the importance of utilizing crowd funding, a digital means of raising funds, for SMEs during the panel discussion. She explained that SMEs needed to increase their level of funding to sustain their businesses and said one way to achieve that was through crowd funding. “In the past, people relied only on friends and family for their capital, but that trend has changed: digitalization is the way to go” Madam Padi said. She encouraged SMEs to leverage social media platforms to promote their businesses.
Ebenezer Ato Yawson, Chief Information Security and AML Officer of IT Consortium who also touched on building resilient SMEs, reiterated the power of digital fundraising such as using CHANGO (a crowdfunding app) to raise capital in addition to bank loans.
Rebecca Oduro, CEO of Akroma Plaza Hotel, spoke on the importance of succession plans and the value digitalization brings to businesses. She said, her business has survived after years of the founder’s demise because there was a succession plan. “We have also broadened our payment collection points to include mobile money payment and online reservation options. We are embarking on more online marketing as this reaches more people and brings in more returns”
As a go-to Bank for SMEs, Access Bank remains committed to its promise of providing more than banking to customers. Over the years, the Bank has developed a deep understanding of its customers, delivering excellent services and empowering them to achieve more through financial inclusion leading to several awards including the Most Innovative SME Banking Brand in 2022.