Making the agricultural products of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) more competitive requires increasing competitiveness across the value chain, including among SMEs themselves. The USAID Zambia Enterprise Development and Growth Enhanced (EDGE) Activity, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, understands that training individuals alone does not improve SME efficiency. However, training when coupled with tailored one-on-one coaching strengthens individuals’ ability to apply new skills and knowledge to solve the challenges that hinder SME growth.
To support these efforts and others, ACDI/VOCA has mobilized more than 12,000 volunteers, who range from graduate students to seasoned professionals with decades of experience, to more than 130 developing countries.
The USAID Zambia EDGE Activity designed a 10- to 12-week summer associate volunteer program for recent Master of Business Administration graduate students. The seven summer associates selected as volunteers worked with the USAID Zambia EDGE Activity to determine the level of bankability of identified SMEs. They also assessed their viability to link with lending products offered by commercial banks, microfinance institutions, and non-commercial USAID Zambia EDGE Activity partners. The volunteers also conducted market analyses, due diligence, and risk and financial modeling to help the selected SMEs become competitive.
Volunteer Bernard Cudjoe, an entrepreneur and finance specialist who runs a social impact start-up in the agriculture industry in Ghana, helped SMEs structure their financial and operational decision making by working with SME leaders to perform financial modeling and institute proper accounting systems.
“Among the six SMEs I worked with, I built a financial model and budgeting tool with the SMEs to guide them in their expansion plans. I introduced the SMEs to a concise stakeholder reporting tool to help them cultivate and maintain good investor relationships and for internal tracking of key performance indicators. I performed financial analysis reports to help SMEs identify core operational areas to improve profitability and value creation and introduced the SMEs to cashbook ledger as a step toward implementing proper accounting systems.”
- Bernard Cudjoe, a volunteer summer associate with the USAID Zambia EDGE activity
According to Bernard, the experience has improved his financial modeling and financial analysis skills. It also has taught him about the various business models within the agricultural value chain and has given him innovative ideas for models that could solve similar agricultural challenges in his home country of Ghana.
Volunteer Lusekelo Mwafulilwa is Association of Chartered Certified Accountants qualified and holds a master’s degree in international accounting from the University of Liverpool. Lusekelo worked with three SMEs on recordkeeping and getting their products into major supermarkets.
“I trained SMEs in the fundamental importance of bookkeeping, statutory obligations, segregation of official duties, and preparing accounting records. It was interesting to listen to the SMEs’ business strategies, as this helped me to think outside the box and carry out my own research to gain an understanding of the businesses.”
- Lusekelo Mwafulilwa, a volunteer summer associate with the USAUD Zambia EDGE activity
Kabita Kabita, who holds a certificate in accounting, a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and a master’s degree in financial management and control, volunteered to share his skills in accounting and finance.
“The three SMEs I worked with needed books of accounts for all business transactions, financial discipline, financial internal control procedures to prevent fraud, and financial statements for their businesses. I provided technical support focusing on documentation of business activities in financial books of accounts and crafting financial statements in an appropriate manner as required by law. It was an awesome experience working with the SMEs, as many of them shared their experiences, skills, successes, and failures in the industry.”
- Kabita Kabita, a colunteer summer associate with the USAID Zambia EDGE activity
Volunteer Ahmed Towsif, a student working on his master’s degree in management in innovation and entrepreneurship said working with the SMEs helped him develop his business analytics skills and provided personal and career growth.
“My goal was to add value to someone’s business using a design thinking and lean startup approach to maximize the business potential of the SMEs… I believe any new business needs to have a human-centric design in their product development to make their business successful. You assess what the pain points of your customers are and develop a product with their needs in mind by developing prototypes, take feedback from your customers, and build a final product that people are ready to pay for.”
- Ahmed Towsif, a volunteer summer associate with the USAID Zambia EDGE activity
This article was originally published by ACDI/VOCA.