Business Incubation in West Africa
Mabel Simpson is the creative director of her own design house, mSimps. It’s a prestigious job for a young woman in Ghana. “At mSimps we make hand-made hand bags, clutch purses, men’s slippers, laptop sleeves,” she says proudly. “All mSimps bags are one-offs. Two people do not own the same bag. Our designs are inspired by African fashion and ethnic prints especially its colours and patterns.”
The company was founded in August 2010 to provide quality, fashionable, affordable products in Africa and beyond.
Ghana has a relatively vibrant entrepreneurship environment compared to peer countries in West Africa, however the capacity for success is undermined by the wider corporate environment in the country, bureaucracy and barriers to entry. Dedicated mechanisms are needed to create an enabling environment and bolster the business potential of Ghanaians, particularly among the youth population.
Enablis is a membership-based not-for-profit body that concentrates on cultivating micro and small businesses to bring about economic development under a three-pronged model of networking, capacity development and access to finance. It was launched at the G8 meeting in 2002 and opened a West Africa office in Accra, Ghana, in October 2009. There, the company developed the Business Launchpad to inculcate a culture of entrepreneurship and support young, creative people to develop thriving businesses.
SABMiller, under its Ghanaian operation Accra Brewery Ltd., partnered with this programme as part of its corporate strategy to encourage enterprise development by supporting the training of small business owners.
Every year SABMiller commits millions of dollars to supporting entrepreneurship projects in many of its markets, last year spending a total of US$4.7m. Through various projects the company aims to support networks that micro and small enterprises need to survive and thrive, from start-up grants to mentoring and training.
Mabel Simpson took part in the Launchpad programme in 2011 with the hope of being able to learn new skills to take her business to the next level. “I got to know about the Business Launchpad from a friend who took part in the previous edition. He told me about how he benefited for the competition ands how he has been able to grow his business [as a result],” she says. “After going through the programme, I got a fair idea of where I want to take my business and how to do it. I restructured my whole business operations taking into account what I have learnt during the training and am already seeing positive results.
“The competition provides the opportunity to network with influential people who can help you business grow. For instance, during the competition I met the Corporate Affairs Director from SABMiller in Nigeria , a sponsor of the competition, who helped me break into the Nigerian market with my product. It is a big exposure.”
Accra Brewery employees also participate in the programme by being a part of the judging panel and providing training in Human resource management, basic accounting, marketing and sales & distribution.
A survey of the organisation’s membership by Accenture showed that 65% of respondents had steady or increased turnover in the past year. 42% had added new businesses while 70% had improved, extended or introduced new products and services. Almost all believed that Enablis had helped them develop their businesses.
Mabel is among them: “The business Launchpad helped turn my hobby in to a profitable business.”