COVID-19: Business Survival Toolkit

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, we anticipate that SMEs will continue to experience supply and demand reduction, diminished confidence from the financial markets, and a reduction of credit. Therefore, we have designed a unique program to help address some of the challenges your businesses will face.

Does any of this classes describe your business?

  1. Class One: I am unsure how to address the impact COVID-19 is having on my business and would like to understand them and brainstorm solutions.
  2. Class Two: I have a few solutions that will help me pivot and salvage my business. I need guidance in sourcing business development opportunities.
  3. Class Three: I have a crisis preparedness plan that has salvaged my business. I need expert guidance to prepare for recovery.

We will be hosting a series of webinars and business clinics across our markets (Kenya, Ghana, Senegal and Mauritania) that will address these challenges.

I Am Interested in the Program    Ask an Expert    Request for More Information

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With Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and the informal sector making up a vast majority of the businesses and job opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa, ensuring their survival is crucial to the continent’s economic recovery and growth post Covid-19. CNBC Africa spoke to Wangechi Muriuki, Country Manager of Invest In Africa Kenya to learn more about what’s being done to provide this necessary support.

Here is the Full Interview: How Invest in Africa is helping Kenyan SMEs survive Covid-19

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As the international response continues to develop, we know that organisations are facing potentially significant challenges to which they need to respond rapidly. We are working closely with organisations globally to help them to prepare and respond, by sharing our experience in working with companies, governments, regulators, NGOs and international organisations around the world to respond to some of the most high profile outbreaks (including Ebola, MERS, SARS and bird flu).

Resource courtesy of PWC.

Download Link: Supply Chain and Third Party Resilience During COVID-19 Disruption

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The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown employers globally into a period of uncertainty with a lot of questions and decisions to make regarding the work place, employment contracts, health & safety and employee management. The Pandemic has brought about adjustments in respect of employee management including flexible working hours, working from home, virtual meetings amongst others of which some employers were not previously open to. Prior to the pandemic, there was the challenged of managing millennials at the workplace to meet organisational objectives.

The term Millennial is used to describe people born between 1980 and 2000. They are also known as Generation Y (Gen Y). The term Millennial usually applies to individuals who reached adulthood around the turn of the 21st century. Millennials are identified by the following common behaviour traits technology savvy, job-hoppers, sceptics, impatient and disloyal, non-conformist, entitled, insubordinate, ambitious-yet-lazy, digital and social media addicts. A study conducted by Bloomberg in 2018, noted that Millennials accounted for 31.5% of the world population. In a similar survey by PriceWaterhouse Coopers, it projected that Millennials will account for half of the global workforce by 2020. Data from the Ghana statistical service show that 57% of the working population is under the age of 25. These statistics make it imperative for institutions to put in place measures that will effectively manage Millennials at the workplace to boost performance particularly during this era of COVID-19.

We share some strategies that can be used by institutions to manage Millennials particularly during this period of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Embrace Technology

The effectiveness of technology and social media in promoting business growth in recent times cannot be overemphasized. Millennials by virtue of their period of birth find themselves in a digital age and are tech-savvy. Studies have shown that Millennials spend an average of two and a half hours on social media every day, and send on average 50 texts a day. Multi-networking is the new norm and presents great opportunities to meet other professionals, promote businesses and generate leads as well as revenue. Organizations should adopt technology at the workplace to get the best out of Millennials. It is however essential that the organization institute control measures to prevent abuse of technology.

Improve mental health facilities

Measures taken to control the spread of COVID-19 including full or partial lockdowns presents a number of mental health issues as matters concerning food, rent, job security, life, health and safety are constantly discussed. Organisations should consider signing on mental health professionals in running support sessions for staff and encourage their employees to use such support lines. The usual concern is that ‘Africans don’t need counselling’. However we do. The knowledge of the existence of such support gives room for others who need such support to use it.

Assess employee engagement factors regularly

These are stressful times, and it is essential that our employees are engaged to ensure optimum performance. Use employee engagement surveys to identify their needs and gaps as they work from home regularly. This will help identify determinant factors which may vary for working remotely. Essential management decisions can be made from the information obtained from such surveys to strengthen organizational performance. Questions relating to work-life balance, participation in decision making, flexible work schedule, job security, use of technology could be asked. Ask open-ended questions to give millenials the opportunity to express and share their opinions about the issues.

Promote work-life balance activities

The quest to achieve organizational targets can be stressful some-times for everyone working from home particularly during this era of COVID-19 where economic activities are slow. These may require staff to work longer hours, during weekends placing their work-life out of balance. Work-life balance has been found to have a relationship with labour-turnover. When an employee’s personal life conflicts with their work schedules, there is a tendency for them to leave a job based on how such a situation is handled by their supervisors. Organizations in their quest to manage millennials particular during an era as this may consider practices such as paid time-off, Happy hour activities, paid sports subscriptions, etc. An assessment should be done on a regular basis with objective to determine if staff are performing at their optimum and in cases where challenges exist efforts must be made to address them.

Create opportunities for growth

It is important that Millennials know there are opportunities for growth at the workplace in the midst of COVID-19. Life has not stopped yet. The absence of such opportunities brings them to a point of evaluating their role and future with the organization. If they feel stuck in a routine role for a long time, they will leave the organization. Career discussions should be held with their line managers and HR at least twice in a year to bring direction to their career growth. Rotation of roles similar to their career choice should also be considered as a means to create growth opportunities.

Conduct Stay Interviews

At the core of the practice of Stay Interviews is to reduce employee turnover. Instead of waiting to hold exit-interviews when staff is leaving, conduct Stay interviews particularly with Millennials to identify key areas to improve. Steps should then be taken to address possible concerns in the broader interest of promoting long-term stay in the organization.

Enhance your organizational culture

Practices aimed at promoting team cohesion and staff performance are evolving and it is essential for the organizations to keep up with industry trends. Millennials are usually expressive, and like every other staff want to work and stay in organizations whose values they identify with. Practices that are autocratic, procedural & process inclined, command-and-control driven, dismissive of employee voice, and overly conservative will not attract and retain Millennials for the long term. An organization’s culture should be friendly to attract people especially Millennials. Practices that will enhance organizational performance includes promoting inter-generational working teams, adopt workgroup concepts, brainstorming sessions, adopt inverse-mentor system (where a young staff is paired with an older employee to learn new skills usually in technology).

The argument of singling out one generation and proposing measures to manage them at the workplace has been questioned by People Management and Business Professionals in recent times. The concern has always been that every generation thinks that the subsequent one is lazy and does things differently.

That notwithstanding, we believe that staff in an organization must be categorized and studied for effective management to ensure they give out their best at the workplace. Clearly, inter-generational conflicts cannot be avoided in the workplace neither can Millennials as they make up a good percentage of our workforce globally now.COVID-19 and the pressures it has brought to the workplace makes it even more critical for organizations to adopt creative ways to manage Millennials to get the best out of them. Using people management practices that worked in the past may not necessarily yield the expected outcome with Millennials because of their unique needs.

By: Naa Amaakai Laryea - HR Specialist based in Ghana

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The National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MOTI) mandated by Act 434 to promote and develop MSMEs in Ghana made a presentation on the Government's Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) Business Support Scheme which is meant to alleviate impact of coronavirus against job losses, livelihoods and supporting MSME businesses.

Download Link: Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) Business Support Scheme

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The announcement of the prolonged shut-down in Kenya as a measure to contain the virus by President Uhuru Kenyatta as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll, could have dramatic negative effects on the economy. Kenya’s economy is largely driven by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and the informal sector that accounts for over 80% per cent of the total workforce. SMEs are our economy's driving force and the backbone of the economy. SMEs employ about 85% of Kenyan labour force which is close to 7.5 million aggregate employment (Gure & Karugu, 2018). They utilize locally accessible resources, foster innovation, employ technology, assemble small-dispersed private savings, and foster entrepreneurship development. They are key to not only driving industrialization as envisaged in Vision 2030 but also crucial in achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The pandemic has massively impacted SMEs by multiple factors ranging from disruption on supply chains, massive lay-offs by large organizations, decreased air freight services and limited outbound air freights among others. In the services industry, the drop-in customers mean no cash coming in to offset expenses and looming shut down of thousands of businesses. Restaurants have been closed or switched to only providing take-aways in parts of the country, gyms, daycares, hair salon and spas, retailers have also shut down as health officials urge social distancing. The COVID-19 era is an unprecedented crisis that poses very tough times for SMEs who are struggling with survival as demand plunges and now staring at the looming business closures.

While it may be too early to estimate how deeply the pandemic will affect SMEs, mooted Kenya government measures to help these struggling businesses may take some time to kick-in. McKinsey have just released some chilling projections citing sub -3% economic growth having already placed growth expectations for Kenya at 1.9% in a recent report analyzing the impact of the virus on Africa. This points to the need for stakeholders to act with a sense of urgency in protecting our SMEs.

As we contend with these complex issues and uncertainty, supporting SMEs will be vital during this uncertainty. We must start to lay focus and take action through sustainable approaches and measures to that will minimize these negative impacts and salvage the economy. While we don’t know how long this will take, we must be cognizant of the fact that opening up the economy will be more difficult than shutting it down as with the fast changing pace of things,  the new normal, whenever it arrives, will be different than the old one.

At a time of crisis, knee jerk and ad – hoc reactions will not be sustainable in helping to bounce back SMEs and keeping jobs as we move to recovery. We need SMEs to survive, grow and continue making their contribution to Kenya’s economy and the world at large.

I will offer suggestions on a few approaches that stakeholders could adopt at a time of crisis like this one:

A strategic approach will provide clarity to direct support actions

SMEs are numerous and heterogenous, in order to formulate effective and impactful solutions our strategies for intervention must be informed by a clear understanding of SMEs, mapped needs by segments and clearly defined objectives targeting sectors affected the most and that will have the most impact on job creation as we move towards recovery. This information will be crucial in painting a clear picture of the desired outcome in view of the unprecedented scale of the crisis and our national goals and development plans as outlined in vision 2030 and the Government of Kenya’s Big 4 Agenda

A cohesive multi-stakeholder approach and coordinated action is needed to effectively deliver solutions

Sustainable SME interventions will require a holistic and coordinated approach with involvement of multiple stakeholders as support actors ranging from both the public and private sector, research institutions, financiers, policy, academia and technical support providers, business membership organizations as well as business development support services. The SME ecosystem has been disjointed and now is the time to step up partnerships and collaborations among stakeholders working with SMEs to capitalize on their strengths and think synergistically. No single player will operate successfully without the other. Active dialogue and information exchange among these players is pertinent now and in the future. An ecosystem approach that is unified by common objectives through one platform that brings support actors together to collaborate, leverage their strengths will create shared value by combining resources. This can leverage technology to support and power the collaboration.

Targeted technical assistance to business support intermediaries on the frontline to offer immediate relief to SMEs

The novel COVID crisis has thrown SMEs into the deep end of the sea in an uncharted territory. There is need to collect data on the ground that will inform practical interventions to direct support and actions.  SMEs will need high touch business support, advice and immediate practical solutions to navigate the crisis. Most business owners are turning to their support organizations where they have membership for help and information. At this point, business support networks and member organizations are well-positioned to collect data and provide credible solutions and resources to help SMEs rethink their next steps and navigate the crisis. Support intermediaries and organizations will need to build sufficient capacity in order to effectively support their SME members. They are the network providers such as the chambers of commerce, sector associations, trade promotion organizations, investment promotion agencies and also co-operatives. Networks like Invest in Africa (IIA) have quickly responded with a Covid-19 survival toolkit offering a range of webinars, resources and business clinic hotlines for SMEs and are collecting SME data.

The role of these network organizations with SMEs is critical as they have structured ways of engaging SMEs and being on the frontline, they need extra funding support to immediately offer relief and provide data to inform wider actions. Targeted interventions for COVID-19 can be channeled through them.

Creating a desirable proposition for lenders in the Financing Ecosystem

The fact that SMEs have insufficient assets and collateral, they are riskier and therefore have a less desirable proposition. The lack of access to finance is one of the most pressing challenges that SMEs face as the funding gap continues to widen. At a time of crisis, maintaining the lines of credit open to viable SMEs through readily available negotiated loan packages by banks and other financial institutions is crucial. The current uncertainty will only raise scrutiny standards on the back of risk-averse lending. While bank financing will continue to be paramount for the SME sector, there is a broad concern that credit constraints will simply become “the new normal” for SMEs unless action is taken. The question is how do we create a desirable proposition to banks and other providers to lend to SMEs?

Firstly, engagement with stakeholders to explore new approaches and innovative policies for SME financing will be paramount; Secondly, creation of partnerships to de-risk mechanisms through guarantees and other instruments;  Thirdly, broaden the range of financing products available to broaden the options targeting a blend of both mainstream and alternative solutions  ranging from bank debt, Private Equity and Mezzanine Financing which is a blend of debt and equity. This the ecosystem approach.

In conclusion, the important role of SMEs in Kenya cannot be overstated. This is a clarion call to all SME support actors to rise to action as key stakeholders to get out of silos and collaborate, share resources, synergize and cohesively develop targeted interventions to salvage our SMEs.

This article first appeared in and was written by Wangechi Murikuki - Country Director Invest in Africa Kenya.

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Today and during this COVID-19 pandemic, one of the key tools required either to start or run a business is an internet connection. The internet has not only changed how a business communicates and manages it employees, it has transformed how businesses engage and manage the customer experience as well as the competition.

Email, online meetings, instant messaging, streaming services and cloud-hosted applications have drastically changed the process of information sharing. Knowledge transfers and collaborations with other businesses and professionals have been simplified into virtual seminars commonly referred to as webinars. Digital advertising and social media engagement have extended a business’ ability to attract and sell to customers from all four corners of the globe. Purchases and payments can now be transacted at the click of the fingertip using mobile banking, mobile money transfers and credit/debit cards.

The internet has made it possible to work from anywhere and practically at any time. There are businesses who before COVID-19 had already embraced this agile manner of work with employees working remotely. The emergence and sweeping nature of COVID-19 has now made working from home (#WFH) a reality and norm for many companies.

At Invest in Africa, adapting to working from home (#WFH) has been relatively seamless as our ecosystem through which we empower SME growth and competitiveness is digital.

  • SMEs members can join our COVID-19 Business Continuity Learning Series virtually through Microsoft Teams.
  • SMEs members have visibility of market opportunities (#tenders/#EOIs/#RFQs) and can also advertise their product and service offerings through our online marketplace platform in Ghana, Senegal and Kenya. Registration is required.
  • SME members can conduct B2B interactions amongst themselves via our online networking platform
  • In addition to connecting via phone and email, SME members can engage our helpdesk through our online chat channel.

The reality of working from home is something we are going to have to contend with for some time to come. It is crucial businesses conduct and navigate their online activities cautiously; putting in place the necessary legal frameworks and security protocols to secure their assets.

Lifting of full or partial lockdowns does not mean that the threat is over.  We need to remain vigilant on how we protect ourselves, our colleagues and our communities.  Staying at home unless it is absolutely necessary to do otherwise is prudent advice, we must all heed.

We spoke to some of our SME members who shared with us their experiences of running their business from home in the wake of this pandemic. Please find their stories.  Stay encouraged and please feel free to share your experiences.

Patience Osekre (MD), Supreme Healthcare Management Services

“Working from home has been great with the additional time gained from commuting hours compounded with reduced stress level; driving through the streets of Accra with some drivers breaking rules, less distractions and being able to focus on lots of outstanding tasks. However, given the nature of work that I do as a psychotherapist, my clients and I miss the physical interaction faceto-face sessions as compared to the seemingly abstract virtual sessions. Working from home sometimes makes me oblivious about my physical appearance: I remember having to grab my wig cap at the verge of the start of virtual meeting session when I thought I only had the audio on.”

Enam Dotse Woyome (CEO), Dondo Sourcing

“I received a call from a freight and logistics company who urgently needed some PPEs within an hour for their drivers because of new regulations introduced at the port. Unfortunately, I had run out of stock because of the spike in demand. I made some frantic calls to other suppliers and fortunately managed to secure some. 

Now came the real challenge; getting the items picked up and delivered to the client. Due to the just ended partial lockdown in Accra I could not move out. The stock was to be picked up in the far west of Accra and the delivery point was in Tema. I called many of my trusted delivery service companies. They could not immediately confirm a bike to pick up the order because of the surge in demand for delivery services. After a few more calls, I managed to locate a delivery service. But my relief turned into dread when I received a call back some minutes later only to be told that the rider had been stopped by the police at one of the numerous checkpoints and turned back.

The client kept calling every now and then to check when the order will be delivered. I was hot! It was an opportunity to secure the client’s confidence and hopefully build a stronger relationship with them. I was very anxious at this point as it was becoming clear that I may not be able to have the items delivered. While pondering what else I could do to resolve the situation, I received a call from the supplier. They had despatched an order to another client located in a suburb close to Tema earlier in the morning, but he could not be reached when the rider arrived to deliver the items. It was the exact items and quantities I had ordered so they wanted to offer it to me. I jumped at it. I agreed to take it. Relief swept over me.

Just then the client called again. This time I was ready. I could give him a delivery time. I sounded calm and confident. He asked whether I was sure. I assured him that he would receive the order within minutes. 15 minutes later, the order arrived at the delivery point and was handed over. A miracle had happened. The odds were very much against me. I was about to lose the confidence of a client. But providence came through for me! I thanked God for that miracle.”

Jason Mills Lamptey (Local Content Manager), Subsea 7 Volta Contractors

“One of the steps our company took to mitigate the impact and disruptions caused by the global pandemic COVID-19, was to accelerate our work-from-home efforts.  We managed this with the use of our own internal workplace software as well of that of the African Partner Pool (APP). A recent technical glitch had us in need of quick assistance. The APP team were both sensitive to our needs and exceedingly responsive. From a customer service standpoint, they are understanding of client perspectives and deliver efficient solutions.”

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Does any of this classes describe your business?

  1. Class One: I am unsure how to address the impact COVID-19 is having on my business and would like to understand them and brainstorm solutions.
  2. Class Two: I have a few solutions that will help me pivot and salvage my business. I need guidance in sourcing business development opportunities.
  3. Class Three: I have a crisis preparedness plan that has salvaged my business. I need expert guidance to prepare for recovery.

We will be hosting a series of webinars and business clinics across our markets (Kenya, Ghana, Senegal and Mauritania) that will address these challenges.

I Am Interested in the Program    Ask an Expert    Request for More Information