Finally, this year’s top award for SME of the Year went to SoSoMa Industries, another Rwandan SME specialising in agro-business.
“We wanted to celebrate SMEs by spotlighting champions capable of transforming the continent and creating value,” explained Amadou Kane, former Finance Minister of Senegal, who was selected to lead the awards panel. “They are the torch-bearers of the Africa SME Champions community.”
Africa SME Champions is so much more than just a conference. We will offer the business and institutional community a framework to meet their needs and enable them to interact with one other.
SMEs need money, but they especially need support as well,” explains Didier Acouetey, founder of the specialist recruitment agency AfricSearch and creator of the event. “This is why we decided to launch Africa SME Champions, a platform to support African SMEs.”
Scheduled to launch in early 2015, this platform aims first to offer support tools to SMEs based on information derived from the fifteen or so thematic sessions presented at the forum.
These sessions dealt with issues such as writing a business plan, marketing techniques and customer relations.
The partner institutions and enterprises, including the IFC, the African Development Bank, OCP, investment funds and consulting firms, will all contribute input to this database of expertise.
In addition to the website, the Africa SME Champions platform will offer very concrete support and consulting services.
“Once SMEs find the information they need on the website, a dedicated team will be on hand to connect them to the relevant funds and consultants who can help them to raise the necessary funds. An entire ecosystem will be available in support of African Champions,” explains Didier Acouetey.
The Africa SME Champions Forum community has also made plans to create the “African Champion” label.
This label will be attached to SMEs based on several criteria, such as their ability to create jobs, their role in regional integration, their implementation of good governance principles, etc. With this label, they will be able to enjoy favourable conditions in the partner countries. In addition to tax advantages, they will also be able to access public procurement contracts, recruitment aid and guarantee funds.
The pan-African bank Ecobank, an event partner, has itself announced the creation of Ecobank SME Clubs. Albert Essien, the bank’s general director, described this project:
“SMEs merit special attention. These clubs will be privileged spaces for dialogue to better evaluate funding needs and make it easier to obtain funding. The criteria for joining the clubs will be extremely simple.”
The Africa SME Champions Forum (http://www.africa-smechampions.com) closed on 12 November in Dakar, but its work in support of African champions is only just beginning.
Bringing together over 300 SMEs and around 100 African economic and political policymakers, these two days of dialogue produced the foundations for a very concrete roadmap.
This roadmap will guide the actions of the Africa SME Champions community in anticipation of the next forum, to be held in Nairobi in November 2015.
The forum also offered an opportunity to recognise champions. The African SME Champions Awards, sponsored by the African Guarantee Fund, honoured three enterprises, which were selected following a rigorous and transparent process. The director of Village Group in Rwanda was awarded the Young Entrepreneur Award. Tabaki, a Kenyan SME, won the Regional SME Award