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SME Spotlight: IIA SME Recovery and Resilience Program Drives Business Recovery for Agro & Real Ltd

The new business normal means new capacity gaps for business owners in leading their businesses to sustainability and growth.  

For Phoebe, appreciating that she needed capacity building was the starting point in putting her business on a positive recovery and growth path. Being the Managing Director and founder of an ICT operating company called Agro & Real Ltd, she needed to hack a solution for the dwindling business operations that would potentially lead her to close shop or discharge most staff.  

Her business scooped its share of challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic, especially with social isolation and lockdowns limiting the company to smaller projects within a smaller geographical area. The scaling down of operations meant a dip in revenue returns and reduced capacity to sustain the company.

Phoebe was also struggling with navigating the new business environment as a business manager. The Covid-19 pandemic caused a lot of mindset shifts to consumers and employees. Business operations also suddenly moved virtually, with most players adopting technological solutions. According to McKinsey, ten years of e-commerce adoption was compressed into three months, as an example of the abrupt digitization of business processes.

This sudden change disrupted business for Agro & Real Ltd, with the necessity for new ways of running business leaving the Managing Director with uncertainty on what steps to take next.   

However, this situation did not last long for Phoebe because she discovered Invest in Africa’s SMEs Recovery and Resilience program, which has helped her lead the company successfully during the challenging times.  

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Invest in Africa (IIA) partnered with Mastercard Foundation to front the survival and resilience of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). That is under an initiative dubbed SMEs Recovery and Resilience. Through this initiative, IIA has collaborated with industry experts to deliver capacity-building support to SMEs through; Business Coaching, Virtual Masterclasses, peer-to-peer mentorship, and an investor readiness program.

Under the SMEs Recovery and Resilience program, Phoebe was assigned a certified business coach. The coach opened her eyes to the new opportunities presented to her ICT company when most businesses and households relied on digital platforms. Through discussions with the coach, Phoebe confidently pivoted her services to optimize the opportunities availed by the ICT migration. 

According to her, she has also improved her staff management skills. By delegating roles effectively, she now has sufficient space to think about the sustainability and growth of the company. Delegating has also given the staff enough autonomy to roll out new ideas with a view of scaling up the business.

For example, one of the staff came up with the idea of ‘home connections to fiber infrastructure,’ which has brought the business a new market and increased revenue. 

“Through the business coaching that was offered to me free of charge, I have realized new ways of putting the staff to use, and this has brought the company new ideas, including new revenue lines,” said Phoebe.

She is happy to reiterate her optimism on the business and how the coaching placed it on a clear growth and sustainability trajectory. She advises fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders to consider business coaching as the breakthrough to adapting to the rapidly changing business terrain.  

The SME recovery and resilience program by IIA is still ongoing with diversification to incorporate additional partners and collaborators. This is geared towards delivering more impact to SMEs by enhancing their access to skills development opportunities, finance linkages, and new market streams. Under this drive, IIA recently partnered with Unilever to champion inclusive sourcing by availing procurement opportunities to women and youth entrepreneurs, persons with disabilities SMEs, and marginalized groups SMEs via Biashara.Now platform.