This project is aimed at strengthening the business support market and administration of SMEs by training and supporting Business Service Providers (BSPs) to provide improved services to SMEs in the region. To achieve this, we trained a selected group of Niger Delta-based BSPs on SME diagnostics and upgrading as part of our drive to improve the technical capacity of SMEs. We also trained them on the use of the Picking Sound Companies (PSC) tool, a company diagnostics tool used to help private enterprises decide where to invest. The knowledge of PSC would help improve business support service delivery by enabling service providers to be better able to assess SMEs’ strengths and weaknesses. These BSPs, in turn, provide services to other SMEs in PIND’s three key value chains and also support other local businesses, including a furniture store and a poultry business.
Since inception, we have trained 19 BSPs and equipped them with tools to effectively diagnose local enterprises against identified procurement and market opportunities and to develop bespoke upgrading plans to help improve their competitiveness. Over the past months, the project has worked with the BSPs to improve over 24 SMEs and helped additional 9 to access N120m in loans
Recently, we engaged with inactive BSPs to identify their challenges and understand the underlying reasons for their inability to apply the skills from the training and the type of support that would be needed to get them commercially viable. The major reasons they gave include:
- Unwillingness of SMEs to pay for diagnostic services and their services in general
- Lack of awareness among SMEs about the tools
- PIND’s unwillingness to help discount the cost of their services to SMEs
Based on their responses, we developed selection criteria for selecting new BSPs and then designed a training plan that would include providing tools and training on business diagnostics, selling of business services to SMEs, market linkages, business plan development, company strategy and marketing and sales.
We established the Technical Assistance Fund (TAF), a support instrument set up to help SMEs in the region whose activities have pro-poor linkages prospect to access technical support services from BSPs trained by PIND. We have Provided TAF support to eligible SMEs leading to growth for the firms, stimulating broader economic development impact in the process.