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Focus on SMEs to create more employment opportunities

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Managing Director of Participatory Development Associates, Mr. Edem Agbe has urged Government to focus on helping Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to grow and build resilience to create more employment opportunities.

He said SMEs were the true drivers of the economy, as such, if they received the needed support, they would take the burden of job creation off the shoulders of Government.

“Governments do not create jobs, they rather create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. If SMEs have the capacity to employ more, the burden of creating jobs would be off the shoulders of government. SMEs need all the available support to be resilient and withstand shocks like the COVID pandemic,” he said.

Mr. Agbe made the remarks during a Research Dissemination Workshop organized by PDA in partnership with The Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

It was on the theme: “Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Experiences of female-led Micro and Small-Scale Enterprises in Ghana.”

The event created a platform for female entrepreneurs to interact and deepen their relationship with Government agencies such as Microfinance and Small Loans Centre (MASLOC), Ghana Enterprise Agency (GEA), formerly NBSSI and Ministry of Trade and Industry, and other development partners.

It also allowed participants to share experiences on the state of their businesses during and after the COVID-19 lockdown period, their challenges and seek for solutions.

The Managing Director said the research project sought to provide robust evidence on how the pandemic had affected women-led SMEs, how they were adapting and navigating through the financial shocks and the measures they had put in place to come out strong.

“This event will help the agencies present to get a direct feedback from the female business owners they work with and be informed as to how to draft future policy frameworks to meet their needs. The people would also get to hear from the agencies directly and know how to package themselves well to benefit immensely from the services of the agencies,” he said.

Mr. Agbe said last month, PDA launched the Youth Business Performance and Sustainability Index which would become a framework or evidence base for agencies to track how businesses they supported were thriving.

Programme Coordinator of PDA and Co-lead of the Research work , Mr. Alex Afram said they found  out that many women-led SMES struggled to access  support from formal financial institutions during the COVID era.

He said most of them could not get access to these assistance due to documentation and business registration related issues such as lack of Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) and absence of business registration records.

As such, these women had to either rely on their savings, which had depleted over time or on informal networks for support.

Mr. Afram said the research indicated that most women-led businesses did not have any clear strategy or risk management contingency plan to withstand unexpected economic hardships.

He called on Government and other development partners to improve access to finance and financial services through tailor-made and flexible financing products for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs).

The Programme Coordinator called for the sensitization of  MSMEs and provide  the necessary business registration  processes to improve their access to financing and relief packages.

He said Government should prioritize digital skills training to bridge the digital skills gap and promote digital technology penetration among MSMEs.

“Government needs to invest in digital infrastructure in rural and peri-urban areas and reduce the cost of internet data to enhance digital inclusion. They must equally provide capacity-building to MSMEs to make them growth-oriented and resilient, and finally establish and promote knowledge-sharing networks for female-led MSMEs,” he said.

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