Panelists at the Maiden Edition of the Graphic/Access Bank SME Clinic have called on Small and Medium Enterprises(SMEs) to adopt digital solutions for resilience and expansion as they strive to be competitive globally.
They asked SMEs to prepare adequately to take advantage of the digital space that remained largely underexploited.
The event, which was on the theme: “Boosting SME Resilience with Digital Solutions,” sought to provide the needed support in diverse ways to help alleviate SMEs of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Seth Twum Akwaboah, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), said SMEs could use virtual solutions in their meetings, use e-commerce with regards to their marketing activities and take advantage of e-transactions, while tapping into security systems to scale up their businesses.
He said the Association had developed an AGI SME Digital Solution Tool to be launched soon for use by its members.
The CEO said before SMEs could take full advantage of the digital solutions, they needed to acquire knowledge through training and that they should invest in these solutions, while joining networks to market their products.
He said SMEs would be left out in the participation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement if they failed to jump on to digital platforms.
He called on government to put in place a digital infrastructure to help in providing the needed speedy orbit for solutions, if “we want to leapfrog and promote business growth”.
Mrs Kosi Yankey-Ayeh, Executive Director of Ghana Enterprises Agency, said the economy hinged on SMEs, so as much as possible, they needed to be provided with some sort of support or relief.
Mr Olumide Olatunji, the Managing Director of Access Bank Ghana Plc, said beyond some innovative start-ups and tech SMEs, a lot more traditional SMEs were lagging behind.
He said SMEs were still less well-connected to high-speed broadband, with lesser scope to participate in the data-driven economy or to leverage cloud computing for extra storage and processing capacity.
“In over a decade of banking in Ghana, our work has shown that digitalization offers tremendous opportunities to increase productivity and create jobs,” he said.
The digital economy offers new opportunities for scaling up and reducing costs, including through the creation of new business models that can challenge existing ones. And SMEs are the first to stand to benefit.
He said “this applies in particular to new or younger firms that often start digital, but also to more traditional, established firms seeking to go global and reach new markets through online activities”.
He said SMEs needed user-friendly solutions for digital processes and there were thousands of tools on the market, but by no means were all of them useful.
The Managing Director said in any solution, the respective tool should be mobile and the times when every step of the process was performed on a desk with fixed programmes had passed.
“Mobile solutions can be used on the go via smartphones and tablets and, even more importantly, by different employees at different locations,” he added.
Mr Olatunji said as the SMEs seek to emerge from the crisis, “we have an opportunity to shape the country’s economic recovery in a way that delivers sustainable, long-lasting, impactful change. Investing in small businesses, and helping them achieve their full, digital potential, will ensure a stronger, future-proofed Ghana.”
He said with increased demand and ready markets through online activities, it was expected that businesses would be able to increase their output, attract the needed funds to expand and upgrade the quality of their services to the acquired taste that we are all used to.
Mr Ato Afful, Managing Director of the Graphic Communications Group Limited, said digital innovation was a potential solution that could introduce efficiencies into SMES to strengthen them.
He said SMEs in Ghana faced a myriad of challenges that needed resolving to make them play their proper roles in job and wealth creation.
He said financial challenge such as lack of access to reasonably priced credit was obviously one of their obstacles but also strategic management and operational inefficiencies that might need innovation to solve, was another hurdle.
“SMEs need to be resilient to deal with such challenges,” he added.