The private sector in Zambia is composed mostly of micro, small, or medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), representing an enormous amount of potential for future growth. Yet these MSMEs face many challenges in growing their businesses, including a lack of access to markets and finance, skills gaps, and meeting international standards of operation. Strengthening the MSME base is therefore recognised as a key component of encouraging private sector growth in a dynamic and responsible way.
For this reason, the Accelerated Growth for SMEs (AGS) programme was established in 2018 to help Zambian MSMEs meet the challenges identified above by offering (1) improved technical, business management and innovation skills and the ability to access funding; (2) improved access to markets; and (3) increased partnerships and business linkages for Zambian and Finnish companies. The programme is human rights sensitive, ensuring social inclusivity and focussing on reaching women and youth. In partnership with Zambian business development service providers, the programme will carry out intensive Acceleration Programmes to boost productivity, growth, and encourage responsible business practices in line with the UN Global Compact guidelines. The objective of AGS is to contribute to the transformation of MSMEs through collaborative efforts with existing stakeholders and by providing the necessary technical input for entrepreneurs to exploit their potential to thrive under varying economic conditions. The expected impact of the Programme is: Improved competitiveness and accelerated growth of MSMEs in Zambia and strengthened business partnerships between Zambia and Finland.
Encouraging business-oriented bilateral relations between Finland and Zambia
The AGS Programme is funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA and implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Trade, Commerce and Industry (MCTI) of Zambia. MFA's country strategy for 2016-2019 focusses on supporting a well-developed private sector, a more dynamic and inclusive society, and business-oriented bilateral relations. In furtherance of these goals, the AGS Programme also brings together a wide spectrum of Zambian and Finnish companies, universities, and other stakeholders to collaborate and transfer technologies, innovative practices, and research know-how. The focus sectors include agribusiness, forestry, renewable energy, circular economy and mining services, with ICT and education as cross-cutting sectors. These are important components of Zambia’s economy where Finnish expertise can be particularly useful.
The Programme creates linkages between Zambian and Finnish stakeholders through direct matchmaking of business partners, and market access services supporting companies enter new markets. This includes feasibility studies to explore product-market-fit and Market Access Consultants helping to navigate new regulatory and cultural environment.Co-creation services bring together companies, researchers and students from different backgrounds to ideate, innovate and prototype new products and services that meet the needs of the Zambian market. AGS commissions feasibility studies to explore Finnish-Zambian business partnerships and facilitates networking and knowledge sharing at events and conferences. Supporting this type of cooperation between Zambian and Finnish stakeholders accelerates the transition towards a balanced, commercially oriented relationship between the countries.
The programme’s Implementation Phase began in early 2020 and is expected to continues until August 2022.