• IIA Prepares SMEs To Leverage African Free Trade Agreement through Excellence Awards

    The 3rd IIA SME Excellence Awards was held in Accra on the 31st of January


    Accra–Ghana, 31st January 2020: Invest in Africa (IIA) is positioning Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) under its programmes, to enable them to explore opportunities that come with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. 

    The AfCFTA becomes operational on 1st June 2020 and is expected to create the world’s largest free trade Zone with over 1billion consumers, a potential $3 trillion economy and zero tariffs on goods traded across countries.

    The Country Director of IIA, Mr Clarence Nartey remarked that IIA is investing to adequately prepare its SMEs to harness the market opportunities this agreement will provide. To start with he indicated that there is still work to be done to educate /sensitise the private sector on both the opportunities and threats that this agreement comes with and work to develop a competitive AfCFTA strategy.  From an IIA perspective, the good news is that some of its suppliers are already engaged in Pan-African trade – equivalent to c.15% of IIA’s active supplier pool. However, this is not enough and the organisation is committed to increasing this to 40% in a few years.

    This will be done through rolling out its AfDB- sponsored flagship Business Linkage Programme  – which focuses on integrating SMEs into supply chains of MNC’s & Large Local organisations by improving their competitiveness and building their long-term capacity,- across 11 countries. Leveraging ICT in the form of IIA’s Digital infrastructure – an online marketplace that connects  50 Buyers and 5500 suppliers across Africa- to accelerate cross-border and regional value chain integration and rapidly scaling-up SMEs through its “Home Grown Buyer project” all of which should position IIA’s SMEs to be regionally competitive.

    Mr Nartey stated this at the 3rd IIA SME Excellence Awards held in Accra today. The Awards Scheme honours indigenous businesses who have demonstrated entrepreneurial excellence and developed the capacity to participate in supply chains of large local and international companies. This year's awards ceremony was under the theme; “Preparing Local Businesses for Regional Market Opportunities #AfCFTA ready”.

    Nine (9) SMEs were awarded for excelling in their respective categories. They are; Young Entrepreneur of the yearBTL Africa Marketing LimitedSustainable Business of the YearJekora VenturesBusiness TransformationAidec Holdings LimitedBusiness LinkageLightingale Limited, Business Technology GrowthConsolidated Shipping Agencies LimitedBusiness Innovation of the YearAgriaccess Ghana Limited,  Mentorship RecognitionAgriaccess Ghana Limited and Scale-Up Business of the Year Western Premium Company Limited. The IIA Star Award for Excellence was awarded to Joissam Ghana Limited.

    The Executive Chairman of AB & David Africa Mr David Ofosu Dorte, who delivered the Keynote address, underscored the need for SMEs to enhance their competitiveness by upgrading the standards of their products and expanding production capacity in order to maximize the benefits from AFCFTA.

    The Country Manager of African Development Bank Group (AfDB) Mr Sebastian Okeke, was the Guest Speaker. He expressed the AfDB’s commitment to continue its partnership with IIA through the Fund for Africa Private Sector Assistance (FAPA), to support the growth of Ghanaian SMEs and promote local content.

    Mr Okeke said through this partnership, some SMEs in the agricultural, oil and gas, financial services and telecommunication sectors among others, have been supported with access to skills, market and finance. “The business skills of more than 300 SMEs have been enhanced and over $2 million worth of credit has been secured for them through IIA’s partner banks”, he noted.

    The event was attended by other IIA’s partners- Tullow Ghana, Modec Production Services, Ghana JV, EY, AB & David, GCB, Barclays Ghana, MTN Business, Ecobank Ghana, GGBL, Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC)and Multi-Media Limited.


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Collaboration in any undertaking is to be applauded and encouraged. Business to business collaboration lags as a strategy because it has not been given enough emphasis. There is a realization that embracing collaboration in business strategies is key to an organization’s overall profitability. It is a valuable way to expand knowledge, learn from the success of others, recruit new clients, tell others about your business and to build a sustainable business.

There is an increasing need for business enterprises, especially SMEs, to come together, open up their operations and establish ways they can learn from each other to enable easy navigation of the business and market environment. That way, they will be able to identify and leverage the business opportunities they are afforded. It also helps to build relationships and avenues for partnership and to share relevant information for training, inspiration, and guidance.

In a bid to create opportunities for SMEs to share knowledge with their peers and form business linkages, Invest In Africa (IIA) introduced the ‘Biashara Exchange Tours’ for the SMEs registered on our online platform, Biashara.Now. The monthly tours involve visits to Biashara.Now member firms, with the aim of enhancing Business-to-Business linkages, learning, and business knowledge exchange. This greatly enhances our key pillars of creating access to skills and markets, as it offers firsthand learning experiences to the SMEs, as well as providing opportunities to directly link and acquire business deals.

During these tours, the SMEs get an opportunity to explore the host company intensively to understand its operations and business structure. The SMEs can learn new business ideas while identifying business opportunities they can take advantage of. This is also an opportunity for the visiting SMEs to interact with each other, form relationships, and share business ideas.

Since the launch of this initiative, there have been 2 tours. The inaugural tour, in August, took a select group of SMEs to MECOL, a company on our platform that specializes in manufacturing bespoke office, school, hospital, library, and shelving furniture. This tour included 15 companies, who visited the MECOL’s Nairobi plant.

MECOL shared some insights into its success with the SMEs and how they have managed to stand out in a sector that is greatly infiltrated by importation. This was an eye-opener for the SMEs, most of whom marveled at the realization that they could get good Kenyan-made furniture instead of importing from Asia. Four of the visiting SMEs pledged to procure their furniture from MECOL.

The next tour was a visit to LINEPLAST Group, which is an alliance of three companies, Plast Packaging Industries Limited, Line Art Solutions Limited, and Aromakare, who offer processing and packaging solutions. The tour took place on 10th September 2019 and involved 10 SMEs. The SMEs were able to explore LINEPLAST Group’s manufacturing and processing facility, giving them a feel of their basic and core operations. Through the tour, 3 business linkages were realized for processing and packaging services. The tour also included a mentorship session where, Mary Ngechu, the LINEPLAST Group Managing Director, motivated the SMEs with the story of her journey of establishing and growing LINEPLAST. She encouraged them to consolidate their businesses into areas of strength and pledged to support SMEs of every level.

These business exchange tours support IIA’s core mission of creating access to markets and skills, through the creation of viable business linkages and sharing of relevant information and ideas. The October edition will hosted by Rhombus concrete, who will host firms in the construction and contracting sector from our platform to learn and identify business opportunities.

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Invest In Africa (IIA-Kenya) in partnership with the Department of Trade, Gender and Youth of the Turkana County Government, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Lundin Foundation, Technoserve, and Tullow Kenya, organized the 2nd annual business forum in Turkana County dubbed, ‘THE TURKANA BUSINESS EXCHANGE FORUM and MSME EXPO 2019.’ This event is a follow-up to last year’s IIA-led event that was held against the background of the Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) which has seen IIA-Kenya work with over 125 MSMEs in Turkana through the platform.

The exchange forum and MSME EXPO was conceived as an interactive platform bringing together several actors in the County including County and National Government Ministries and Agencies, private sector entities, business associations, bilateral and multilateral agencies, academia and MSMEs. This interaction aims to position the MSMEs to take advantage of Business Linkage opportunities through networking, showcase MSMEs from Turkana and public-private open dialogue to address key policy issues affecting the business environment in Turkana.

The key objectives of this year’s forum (BEF 2019) were: to provide a platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue – with the Turkana County Government (TCG), on the action areas identified at the previous Business Exchange Forum (BEF 2018) and progress made towards operationalizing the MSME Development Framework; to increase opportunities for public-private partnership for increased investment into Turkana County; to showcase scalable local Turkana businesses for the purpose of creating viable linkages for skills, finance and markets; and to understand the different MSME development initiatives and identify the areas of possible synergies.

This year’s theme is ‘Enhancing MSME Competitiveness for Business Linkages’, focused on the key value chains which carry opportunities in Turkana county. These value chains include; Extractives, Agribusiness, Basketry and Handicrafts, Construction and Fisheries. The other additional areas the forum covered included Refugee Livelihoods and wholesale and retail business.

This year’s forum was attended by 150 participants drawn from the private sector, government, business community, and Media. 43 MSMEs from Turkana County also exhibited at the EXPO. The highlight of this year’s event was the participation of MSMEs from the humanitarian ecosystem from Kakuma/Kaloyebei in Turkana West. IIA’s partners, Kenya Tullow and Equity Bank, facilitated sector discussions on Extractives and Access to finance respectively.

The event was graced by His Excellency, Josephat Nanok, Governor – Turkana County with participation from high-level county ministers. The event brings together several private sector actors, business associations, bilateral and multilateral agencies, academia, the business community, MSMEs and the media.

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A Comp Services Limited

A Comp Services is an indigenous supply and retail service provider that specializes in stationery, office supplies and safety wares in Ghana.

A Comp joined Invest in Africa’s African Partner Pool (APP) in the latter part of 2017. In early 2018, Oduro saw a bid request posted by Ecobank Ghana on the APP. He put in an application and subsequently won a contract to supply several items of stationeries; and one year on, the contract is still in force. According to him, the deal with Ecobank has had a very positive impact on his company’s cash flow due to the recurrent nature of the arrangement and prompt payment by the bank. Proud that he can now boast of having a regional banking powerhouse among his list of clients, he also reveals that inflows from the Ecobank alone approximately constituted 30% of his revenue in 2018.

More opportunities continue to come way through the APP. More recently, the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), an initiative backed by the US Government, has also extended an opportunity to them. This, too, has been a revenue boost for A Comp.

Akiberan Aberu Suppliers and Contractors – Rael Mzee Lochodo, Chairperson

Akiberan Aberu Suppliers and Contractors are a wholly women-owned and run business based in Lokichar, Turkana County, Kenya.

Aberu Suppliers who were the first SMEs to secure a loan through IIA’s Africa’s Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) are contractors of Tullow Kenya B.V and supply vegetables, fruits and other perishable farm produce to Tullow Oil.

“The unlocking of 70% financing by IIA-Kenya is a dream come true for our business. It is the beginning of a new journey to prosperity as some of the constraints we have been facing in accessing finance are now a thing of the past. Through the Credit Guarantee Scheme by Invest In Africa, we can now bid for bigger jobs without worry.” says Rael Mzee.

Loiteiteleit Company Limited- Lydia Tioko, Founder

“I dared to dream and venture into an unknown world of construction which is mostly dominated by men. With a lot of persistence, assistance and hand-holding from Invest in Africa, I have been able to climb up the ladder and bid for jobs I could not even imagine. I have been able to work with the County Government and also Tullow Kenya B.V for a project to construct latrines. However, when I could not attend to the tender because of financial challenges, Invest in Africa through their Credit Guarantee Scheme came to my rescue and I was able to deliver to the contract on time. Additionally, through IIA-Kenya’s continuous capacity building training programmes, I have gathered a lot of knowledge to run my business better.”

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