IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and H&C Business Technologies, a leading business service provider in West Africa, launched an SME Toolkit Web site for Benin (www.africa.smetoolkit.org) on February 26th. This free online business management resource provides local small businesses with access to training and information. It also addresses some of the major problems facing small business owners, including drafting a business plan; accessing legal, accounting, and financial advice and market information; and tackling other issues related to managing a business.
“Micro, small, and medium enterprises are important channels for addressing job creation and economic growth, but they need the tools and information to compete. Initiatives like the SME Toolkit can help bridge the information gap for small businesses, while promoting information technology literacy.”
Hamziz Oceni, National Coordinator of Benin’s Private Sector Promotion Program.
“The Benin SME Toolkit is the most comprehensive, free online resource for doing business in the country. It will provide a one-stop source of information for local businesses, saving them time and money. We are delighted to partner with IFC to create more opportunities for growth and expansion for our small business clients,” said Hermann Cakpo, Chief Executive Officer, H&C Business Technologies.
Internet usage per 1,000 residents in Benin is twice the African average, and this number continues to grow rapidly. Research shows that between 2000 and 2007, the number of Internet users grew by more than 4,000 percent. As Internet use accelerates, so will the number of potential entrepreneurs who will be able to access this free advice on how to start and run a business. For those without regular or reliable Internet connections, the SME Toolkit can also be run on CD-ROMs. Users can also register for in-person, computer-based workshops that are taught by professional trainers.
“IFC promotes the SME Toolkit to support the growth and management of small businesses by providing them with access to information and technology. We welcome this partnership with H&C, a dynamic information company in West Africa that is well-positioned to support SMEs in their development,” said Laurence Carter, IFC Director for Small and Medium Enterprises.
In November 2007, IFC partnered with the iDISC Network member BusyInternet Incubator in Ghana to launch the SME Toolkit in Ghana. The project will be launched in the firsrt half of 2008. Estelle Sowah, BusyInternet’s Managing Director, said, “Small businesses account for the bulk of the private sector in Ghana, yet their success rates are not as high as they should be because of poor access to good business management practices. The SME Toolkit will provide Ghanaian businesses with information and the new collaborative technologies they need to help them grow and prosper.”
About the SME Toolkit
IFC launched the SME Toolkit in 2002. In Africa, the network covers Algeria, Benin, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia. Plans are underway to add nine other country sites, including Ghana and Senegal, which will launch their sites before the end of the year. In 2006, IFC partnered with IBM to strengthen and expand the toolkit’s capabilities. IBM has dedicated more than $2 million to transform and rebuild the product on an innovative and open-source platform. The specially designed, free tools include:
- An online calculator that helps small businesses determine if they qualify for financing
- Software to help build Web sites
- Simple questionnaires to help owners decide on issues affecting their businesses
- Community tools such as online conferencing, blogs, and group calendars
- A multilingual business directory to help small businesses link globally
The SME Toolkit is available in 28 countries and in 15 languages throughout the developing world. In many of these markets, there are no other comparable online support resources for small businesses in the local language. The toolkit receives nearly 3 million visits every year. For more information, visit the SME Toolkit website.
Read more about the SME Toolkit in this attachment:
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, fosters sustainable economic growth in developing countries by financing private sector investment, mobilizing private capital in local and international financial markets, and providing advisory and risk mitigation services to businesses and governments. IFC’s vision is that people should have the opportunity to escape poverty and improve their lives. In FY07, IFC committed $8.2 billion and mobilized an additional $3.9 billion through syndications and structured finance for 299 investments in 69 developing countries. IFC also provided advisory services in 97 countries. For more information, visit the IFC website.
Business TechnologiesFounded in 2003, H&C Business Technologies is a West Africa-based business services provider. The company promotes better management practices in the region by developing and providing business tools and solutions for starting and growing small and medium enterprises. Its products and services range from software, training, and surveys, to Web development and promotion services. The company serves about 1,500 small businesses and has offices in Benin and Senegal. For more information, visit the H&C website.
Learn more about this incubator: Busy Internet