“There are a lot of things businesses can do without government intervention”- Marcia Ashong (CEO, The Boardroom Africa)
The pandemic has left nothing to chance as businesses particularly, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have had to engage in penny-pinching mechanisms to stay afloat. According to Marcia Ashong, Founder and CEO of The Boardroom Africa and Brace Energy,
“We are in a public health crisis therefore any intervention or relief efforts must be prioritized towards that sector… asking residents to remain at home or have limited movement for all but essential errands and businesses have created an incredibly difficult reality for many MSME’S especially those that have traditionally customer-facing”.
“While we must prioritize the health and safety of everyone, I believe we must also recognize the economic hold the pandemic is wreaking on the globe and very quickly determine interventions that are necessary”.
Essentially, MSME’S are an active player in the economy of the country, and the current pandemic as well as the gripping pain of this sector which is largely informal, has touched home. To this, she said,
“It boils down to what economies as a whole are made of… the growth of this market sector in particular has a strong indicator of a growing economy… MSME’s make up the bulk of this finished goods and services and they also create a huge chunk of the available employment in most countries in the African context roughly 8% of all the region employment is created by the MSME’s, so we cannot simply ignore them or leave them to fend for themselves during this crisis… it’s just a matter of fact that we just can’t afford to do that and that’s why many governments, Ghana inclusive are focusing a great deal of their efforts in ensuring that these crop businesses do not fail during these times”.
“In Ghana, we have several initiatives that have been availed, the coronavirus alleviation program (CAP)… we also have the MasterCard foundation recovery and resilience program which is an approximately GHC 90 million initiative all housed under the NBSSI”
Despite the challenges of these MSME’s getting sufficient funds to support their businesses due to the dispositions they find themselves in as some are not even formally registered and with the little public record and on them to benefit from these alleviation programs, “these problems also make it difficult for government intervention to also target them but we also know these type of entities or establishments also play a huge role in the running of our economy”.
On 21st May 2020, the CEO of the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), Mrs. Kosi A. Yankey-Ayeh outlined the categories of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which qualify to benefit from the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) Business Support Scheme. According to her, MSME’S with one to five employees, small enterprises with six 29 employees, and medium enterprises with 30 to 99 employees do qualify for a loan.
Commenting on this, she said,
“There is no one size fits all when it comes to the determination of what makes a medium, micro, or small enterprise and each country has its own definition… I personally am not sure whether basing it purely on the number of employees gets to the heart of the value that that entity provides to the broader economy… in my intervention, if I would prefer it would go to those that employ the most because that’s where the impact is felt the most”.
Most of these enterprises are in a dire state as they mostly run primarily on the inflow of cash via daily transactions with clients to stay afloat and once this gets destroyed then it leaves little room for recovery as intervention models from the government are sparse to cater for all businesses.
“When you’re cash strapped in that respect then you’ll have the fallback of all the other things that align with that, losing your core base of employees or even having to furlough them, having to come up with interesting measures that can keep your employees in place or maybe reduce your own salary as a leader”.
Despite the stark disparity in qualifying for these alleviation programs, these businesses can relatively thrive without government injection. In advising MSME’s, she said,
“One of the things businesses can do without government intervention, so for any business my first inclination is to say that first of all, if you’re not already doing so, it is important that you start to develop and adapt business continuity plans or BCP’s… also, they involve determining a range of threat scenarios and creating a plan of how to maintain business continuity during these incidents. It often also means retrenching back to your core services and letting less important activities go until the situation takes a turn for the better”.