SMEs and SDGs: challenges and opportunities

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By Dr Teodorina Lessidrenska, Consultant, World Bank


This blog is part of a special series exploring subjects at the core of the Human-Centred Business Model (HCBM). The HCMB seeks to develop an innovative – human-centred – business model
based on a common, holistic and integrated set of economic, social, environmental and ethical rights-based principles. Read more about the HCBM here, and check out an event about it here
The HCBM project originated in 2015 within the World Bank’s Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development and is now based at the OECD’s Development Centre.

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Women selling eggs in Kigali, Rwanda

Recent studies show that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for an overwhelming majority of private sector business and economic activity in both developed and developing countries. Given the role of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs)1 in the global economy, it is essential to understand their importance and potential contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)2. 

According to the World Bank3 and the OECD4, multiple reasons explain why MSME development is critical for achieving the SDGs:

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Jeunes : oser, innover, entreprendre !

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Par Awa Caba, Co-fondatrice, Sooretul 1


Pour en savoir plus sur ce sujet :
Le Forum mondial de l’OCDE sur le développement 2018
Cliquer ici pour vous inscrire


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Vendeurs de fruits à Thiès, Sénégal. Photo: shutterstock.com

Au Sénégal, les Petites et Moyennes Entreprises (PME) ou structures de production et transformation des produits agricoles se trouvent essentiellement dans la banlieue de la capitale (Guédiawaye à 15 km de Dakar) et dans les zones rurales autour de Kaolack, Ziguinchor, Kédougou, Thiès et Saint-Louis. Elles disposent de peu de moyens techniques et financiers pour se développer et commercialiser leurs produits. Leurs produits manquent notoirement de visibilité et de présence sur le marché local, dans les boutiques et les grandes surfaces.

La stratégie de pénétration du marché par ces structures s’effectue, en général, à travers la participation aux foires internationales. Ce sont malheureusement les seules occasions de vente à très grande échelle. Ce déficit des produits locaux sur le marché a plusieurs causes: peu de moyens mis en œuvre pour développer le secteur, des PME insuffisamment sensibilisées aux enjeux du packaging, et un manque de d’incitation au niveau politique pour favoriser la consommation de produits locaux.

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Enabling Asian SMEs to thrive in a digital world

By Dr. Deborah Elms, Executive Director, Asian Trade Centre, Singapore

e-commerce-digital-business-dmA young lady in a remote village in northern Vietnam is using new technology to create and sell her family’s traditional silver necklace designs to customers across the region and even globally who can collect their purchases directly from 3D printing facilities.

Another small firm in Bangkok has transformed its eyewear company to sell online using a mobile app that allows users to visualise glasses from different angles as the phone tilts. Shoppers are finding and increasingly buying these products from all across the region.

These small companies — and many more like them — show the promise of e-commerce and digital trade to transform business in Asia. The tiniest firm in the most remote location can become a “micromultinational.”

But this promise comes with a catch: such business practices work if, and only if, governments in the region are able to build a supportive and enabling policy environment. For smaller firms, complicated or difficult policies that cause delays and drive up costs can be impossible to overcome.
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Financing African SMEs: can more of the same help bridge the gap?

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By Rodrigo Deiana, Junior Policy Analyst, and Arthur Minsat, Head of Unit for Europe, Middle East and Africa (acting), OECD Development Centre


The topic discussed here builds on the success of the 2017 Africa Forum


Africa-SMEsAfrican firms don’t have it easy. Among the many constraints faced by formal companies, access to finance consistently ranks as a top issue. Almost 20% of formal African companies cite access to finance as a constraint to their business.1 Overall, African micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face a financing shortfall of about USD 190 billion from the traditional banking sector.2 African firms are 19% less likely to have a bank loan, compared to other regions of the world. Within Africa, small enterprises are 30% less likely to obtain bank loans than large ones and medium-sized enterprises are 13% less likely.3

To bridge this gap, governments and market players need to strengthen existing credit channels as well as expand new financing mechanisms.

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Small Business Acts : Catalyseurs de l’entrepreneuriat africain

Par Jean-Michel Sévérino et Jérémy Hajdenberg, co-auteurs d’Entreprenante Afrique 1 


Explorez les Perspectives économiques en Afrique 2017Entrepreneuriat et industrialisation en Afrique pour en savoir plus sur ce sujet.


Catalyseurs-entrepreneuriat-africainL’Afrique n’est pas différente des autres continents : le dynamisme économique africain repose comme ailleurs en très grande partie sur les PME. La nouvelle classe d’entrepreneurs africains ayant émergé depuis dix à vingt ans apporte avec audace et innovation des réponses durables aux besoins d’un continent dont les économies sont encore fragiles.

Parallèlement, la situation démographique de l’Afrique s’annonce comme un défi. 133 millions il y a dix ans, les 15-24 ans sont aujourd’hui 172 millions et seront 246 millions en 2020. Alors que 74 millions d’emplois devront être créés d’ici là afin que le taux de chômage des jeunes évite simplement d’augmenter, 72% des jeunes Africains se disent attirés par l’entrepreneuriat.

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What’s standing in the way of South Africa’s entrepreneurs?

By Talitha Bertelsmann-Scott, Head : Economic Diplomacy Programme, and the entire Economic Diplomacy Programme team, South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)


Explore the 2017 African Economic OutlookEntrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa for more on this subject.


Sout-Africa-EntreIndustrialisation is a key driver of sustainable development. It creates jobs, adds value and promotes trade through greater integration into global value chains. At the same time, entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are critical to every economy by creating jobs and innovative goods, promoting a competitive environment and economic growth, and facilitating income distribution. The South African government recognises the need for entrepreneurship and SMEs’ engagement with industrialisation efforts to address some of the key socio-economic challenges in the country, particularly poverty, inequality and unemployment. However, South African entrepreneurs 1 still face a number of constraints that hinder greater participation in industrialisation efforts. So, what are the roadblocks standing in the way of entrepreneurs? Continue reading

Little changes for women entrepreneurs in Africa unless mindsets and policies change

By Mike Herrington, Executive Director, GEM Global


Explore this topic further with the upcoming launch of the
2017 African Economic Outlook: Entrepreneurship and Industrialisation in Africa.
Stay tuned for details.


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Women selling eggs in Kigali, Rwanda

In the last decade, most countries in Africa underwent radical transformation, increased their GDP per capita and moved towards globalisation. Just look at Botswana where GDP per capita increased from USD 7 136 in 2013 to USD 7 505 in 2014, or Cameroon that saw an increase from USD 1 271 to USD 1 405, or Nigeria that experienced a jump from USD 1 692 to USD 3298 during the same period.1 

 However, to move closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the continent needs to change the mindset of people and pursue policies to boost the development of small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs) to help reduce poverty and unemployment, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
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