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Futureproofing SMES In Ghana : A cursory look at the SEED model

By: Justice Ofori-Elikem

The novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) which reared its ugly head into the world from the latter part of the year 2019 is currently impacting negatively on all aspects of human lives and business activities.

Most SMEs in Ghana have been adversely affected. Their value chains have either been disrupted or fragmented resulting in low revenues, negative cash flows and the folding up of less resilient business entities. This situation is also leading to staff lay-offs and in some cases reduction in staff salaries.

The Covid-19 pandemic has unraveled certain weaknesses in Ghana’s economic system, especially in the manufacturing, health, sanitation and hygiene sub-sectors. The situation is not all gloom and doom. The pandemic is actually offering both threats and opportunities because a few companies in the country have braved the odds by doing all they can to support the government’s efforts to curb the rate at which the virus is spreading.

Some SMES in Ghana that have undergone the sustainable enterprise development training programmes organised by SEED are pressing on irrespective of the Covid-19 threat. SEED is an international organisation that promotes SMEs engaging in initiatives or business activities that are eco-inclusive.

It also aids in futureproofing and boosting the resilience of these SMEs that they interact with by equipping them with effective business tools developed by its team of international experts to enable businesses to weather storms caused by pandemics, endemics, inflations or other forms of economic shocks. SEED, which is described as a global partnership for action on sustainable development, was founded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. The partnership is currently funded by the German Government.

WashKing Sanitation Systems Limited is a SEED-trained Ghanaian owned enterprise that is into sustainable social sanitation. It is a private limited liability company founded by Dieudonne Kwame Agudah, a trained bio-toilet technologist and environmentalist. He is very passionate about issues regarding Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). The company produces, supplies, installs and maintains toilet facilities. The WashKing toilet facility product design is based on a green technology that aids in treating fecal matter on-site under certain aerobic conditions, thus minimising the emission of greenhouse gases.

According to the CEO of WashKing, he was taken through a set of training modules and toolkits by SEED’s professional trainers; consequently the competitiveness, resilience, profitability, sustainability and social impact of his firm has improved. The company has also gained much visibility and the demand for its toilet facilities keeps increasing.

Green Honey Company Limited is another SEED-supported Ghanaian business entity that is into beekeeping, honey extraction, processing, packaging and distribution.

The co-founders of the company are Ibrahim Hamidu and Abdul-Majid Issah Malori.

In 2019 the Green Honey’s co-founders had the opportunity of being trained by SEED in various aspects of sustainable enterprise management. Although the last phase of the training which should have been done in the first quarter of 2020 had to be suspended due to the occurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company has started chalking up remarkable successes as a result of their engagement with SEED. The business was offered some financial assistance to the tune of 1500 Euros by SEED and this enabled it to obtain 120 beehives.

With the knowledge gained from the SEED training, the company has been able to do a comprehensive stakeholder mapping which led to the training of over 500 smallholder apiarists who currently work on the bee farm located at Sampa and are compensated by the company based on a profit-sharing arrangement. Also the business now has a total of eight retail outlets; Kumasi has four outlets, with Sampa and Accra having two outlets each.

The sales outlets were previously 23 in number. After doing a Value Chain Analysis under the supervision of SEED trainers it was realised that the number of retail outlets had to be compressed because the ambience of some of the outlets did not meet the upgraded quality standards of Green Honey. The pandemic has not affected the company’s supply chain due to the effective mechanisms put in place by the management team as a result of their implementation of techniques acquired through the training offered by SEED.

SMEs in this country must be helped to become future-proofed by taking the owners and their employees through a series of structured training programmes similar to the SEED initiated activities to help them develop the kind of resilience needed to tackle challenges similar to the ones being posed by the current Covid-19 crisis. This will make them develop the ability to deliver impactful business results.

The writer is a United Nations Certified Business Development Advisor
and Communications Consultant.