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Planning for Sustainable Small Businesses in Africa


Image‘Planning and Managing your Business’ workshops run by Interims for Development are enabling recent returnees to Africa to develop their new businesses in a more structured and sustainable way.

Sponsored by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a leading international organisation working with migrants and governments to provide humane responses to migration challenges, the workshops have provided in-country support for refugees returning home to South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Through the IOM’s Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP), the organisation has assisted over 7,500 individuals and families with assisted return and reintegration assistance in the countries of return.

As part of the reintegration process, the workshops are providing returnees with access to training for setting up a small business; enabling participants to acquire the tools they need to rebuild their lives back in their countries of origin and to sustain their return on a long-term basis. Interims for Development has already successfully assisted the IOM with employment and entrepreneurial orientation and training for returnees to Zimbabwe, with highly positive feedback from both participants and IOM staff.

Small Business Development

‘Planning and Managing your Business’ is delivered to groups of returnees and the training workshops have, to date, been run in Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The two-day training programme covers a range of information and advice on self-employment – from setting up a business to developing a business idea and a basic business plan. Participants are also offered strategies for identifying sources of finance and resourcing and for promoting their businesses.


Across the countries, the workshops have given tools and information to help returnees with identifying transferable skills and reviewing their business ideas in a focused way. Delegates come from a wide ranging spectrum of businesses, from welding to hairdressing, from manufacturers of school uniforms to Internet cafes and photocopy services. The workshops have been structured to be informal and highly participative, allowing those present to share ideas and experiences with people in a comparable situation.


Asking the Key Questions

Dorothy Adebanjo, Interims for Development’s Zimbabwe-based Training Consultant, has led the delivery of the workshops across the three countries.

“It doesn’t matter where you are; the principles and basics of doing business are the same,” she says. “In our experience, planning and managing are the same across the countries we have been working in. The key difference we have noted is that in some places where there is more competition, business owners have to really work hard on financial management and competitor analysis. In Zimbabwe and South Africa, we found a good balance of the other aspects but performing regular SWOT analyses is more and more important as competition increases.”

One critical aspect of the workshop is the self-analysis undertaken by participants who are faced with answering key questions about their capacity and temperament in relation to self-employment. Adebanjo found that across the board, planning was critical at the early stages of business development and people should not underestimate the level of planning needed and an understanding of their own skills.

Across the countries, the workshops have given the entrepreneurs tools and information to help with identifying transferable skills and reviewing their business ideas in a focused way.

“This has been to me the most revealing thing – working with people to look at their own skills and to assess what they are good at and not so good at. By focusing on identifying their transferable skills and addressing the factors for self-employment, participants are able to clarify the strengths that they are bringing to running their own business as well as shortcomings that they need to address,” says Adebanjo. “In this way, when they employ people, they get those with the skills they themselves lack for balance.”

In the initial stages, participants complete a Business Plan form which is brought into the training and forms a central point of referral as the training workshop progresses, she adds. “Throughout the training, participants are able to amend the form as they gain increased information. They are able during each session to gain a deeper understanding and therefore strengthen their plans so that the document becomes a ‘live’ document for them to constantly refer to and amend as necessary.”

Some of the participants have not had the benefit of any formal training in how to plan and manage their businesses, says Adebanjo. “Working together in this way, using individual working, buzz groups and plenary sessions, they are able to share experiences with their colleagues throughout the two days and to gain answers to the majority of their fears/threats.”

Refining the Business Plan

These entrepreneurial skills and employment skills programme will enable the IOM to provide returnees with a broad range of training to assist with the creation of sustainable businesses through a clear understanding of business planning and management.

“The delegates are able to refine their business plans, and with a deeper understanding of the details of how to cost their products, calculate their gross and net profits. They are able to understand the importance of marketing their products and how to gather information on their competitors. This gave them an in-depth insight into the manner in which they can run their business in order to make a profit,” says Adebanjo.

The workshop participants are also trained in financial management skills, a critical area in which many individuals have no formal training or qualification. Through active discussions, participants share their experiences and opinions and examine in depth direct and indirect costs and the importance of running their business ethically at a time of increased competition for a relatively small market, as well as other external circumstances such as high inflation.

A Whole New Way of Living

“The business person has to come to terms with and embrace a whole new way of living,” says Adebanjo. “The participants are able to reflect and assess their understanding of the implications of having to work differently from those in employment.”

With all the inherent risks involved in running a business, these training workshops are equipping small business owners with the basic skills required at a time when competition is at higher levels in many African countries than ever before.

“The delegates are able, by the close of the training workshop, to define their business ideas clearly and concisely,” says Adebanjo. “They are able to take stock and reflect on their various skills and to look at themselves critically, thereby identifying their strengths as well as their weaknesses.”

The training workshops are reinforcing the importance for business men and women to regularize their businesses, to learn how to compete effectively and to put the funds that they have to good use, she adds. “All aspects of the course are, I would say, of equal importance. What we found was that the earlier participants came on the course, the more beneficial the course was in increasing their awareness of the importance of planning in self-employment.”

Interims for Development is a UK based company providing a range of Human Resources, Training, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Capacity Building services in Africa and in the UK. www.Interimsfd.com
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