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, whose 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, manufacturing, mining, energy, circular economy, and information communication technology (ICT), important components of Zambia’s economy where Finnish expertise can be particularly useful.
The Programme creates linkages between Zambian and Finnish stakeholders through a targeted bilateral Market Access Programme which facilitates the market entry of companies from one country to another through coaching and supporting the creation of strategic partnerships. A co-creation model has been designed for multidisciplinary student teams to ideate solutions to challenges presented by selected private companies. The process is expected to result both in new innovations within the companies involved, as well as spin-off start-ups founded by the students. AGS commissions feasibility studies to explore Finnish-Zambian business partnerships and facilitates networking and knowledge sharing at events and conferences. Specific business sectors are selected for training programmes in collaboration with Finnish industry players, and innovation and co-creation activities bring universities and the private sector together. Supporting this type of cooperation between Zambian and Finnish stakeholders accelerates the transition towards a balanced, commercially oriented relationship between the countries.
From inception to implementation
The programme began in September 2018 with a one-year inception phase, during which the team thoroughly studied the Zambian MSME environment and its challenges, defined and established key partnerships, piloted the feasibility studies and wrote the Programme Document to clarify the exact activities, objectives and strategy of the programme. This was done in close collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry in Zambia and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. Implementation of the programme begins in October 2019 with launching the Acceleration Programmes, sectoral training programmes, university-industry co-creation models and other defined activities to boost Zambian MSMEs and connect Finnish and Zambian private sector players together. AGS will continue until August 2022.