For the many challenges facing businesses during these hard COVID-19 times, there are still positives to point out. Whereas businesses are collapsing, workers losing their jobs, economic growth either stunting or declining, the Ghanaian economy, a highly informal one, is seeing some aggressive formalisation.
How? Through the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) Business Support Scheme, launched by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, which is well run by the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), the government’s dream of formalisation the economy is bearing fruits.
To underscore the essence of the programme, note that in Ghana, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for 92% of businesses and contribute to about 70% of Gross Domestic Product, this is according to research from the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana, 2015. Undoubtedly, MSMEs are the pulse of the Ghanaian economy. It is these businesses that keep the lights on in Ghana.
The CAP BuSS is a special fund set up by the government to cushion micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) from the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The government set up the special fund with a seed capital of GH¢600 million and subsequently topping it up with GH¢150 million.
So far, more than 200,000 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) have received some form of financial and or capacity building support from the programme. As a very informal economy, data shows that more than 90 percent of these micro and small companies have been operating without formal registration, Tax Identification Numbers (TIN) and bank accounts.
But to access the benefits of the programme, one must register formally, receive a TIN, open a bank account or an official mobile money account. This process allows these businesses to become a part of the formal economy which now allows the government to properly plan its projects and programmes for maximum effect.
The Executive Director of NBSSI, Mrs. Kosi Yankey-Ayeh, confirmed that so far the NBSSI has successfully disbursed some GH¢390 million out of the GH¢750 million Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme (CAP BuSS) to 200,000 applicants.
The beneficiaries, she noted, were selected out of about 800,000 applications and they received between GH¢900 and GH¢250,000 under what is known as the Anidaso and Adom special loans. Businesses from sectors such as health care and pharmaceutical, manufacturing, agri and agri-business, water and sanitation, tourism and hospitality, education, textiles and garments, commerce or trade, and service benefited from the scheme.
Gov’t dream is being realized
The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, has consistently noted that for any economy to see exponential growth, it must speed up its formalization. Since 2017, government has introduced programme such as digital addressing system, National Identification System, Tax Identification Numbers (TIN), mobile money interoperability and others to help speed up the process.
Despite the usage of these processes, not many businesses have been formalized until the arrival COVID-19. With the CAP BuSS programme being run by NBSSI, government is gradually seeing the full scope of the economy.
A more formalized economy has many advantages. Some of these include enforceable commercial contracts, tax breaks and incentive packages to raise the competitiveness of businesses, membership with trade union associations, access to government subsidies and incentives, employer contribution to pensions, and rights to organize and bargain collectively.
With more than 200,000 businesses formalized, it becomes easier for all economic actors including the government, businesses, trade and labour unions to work hand-in-hand for the benefit of all.
Apart from finance, capacity building is key
The NBSSI is not just funding these businesses but also organizing an Entrepreneurship, Business Management and Financial Literacy training for these MSMEs that have received financial support under the CAP BuSS across the country.
The training forms part of its mandate to support private businesses to recover from the effects of COVID-19. This programme has been running since September 28, 2020 and it targets about 8,100 beneficiaries of the Scheme. It is expected to end on October 31, this year.
The ongoing training programme includes financial management, book keeping, basic accounting and formalization of businesses. It is hoped that these topics will contribute positively to the agenda of NBSSI to push for the formalization of MSMEs in Ghana. The training programmes are being facilitated by representatives of NBSSI and professionals with experience in financial literacy and business formalization.
The initiative also forms part of the technical support aspect of the scheme being implemented by the NBSSI to assist beneficiaries of the CAP BuSS initiative to equip them with additional skills and knowledge to grow and sustain their businesses.
The NBSSI has also indicated that its 185 offices are opened to assist MSMEs all year round. NBSSI has taken into consideration the necessary COVID-19 health protocols to ensure that participants are safe.
Digitising the MSMEs
In addition to providing funding and building their capacity, the NBSSI is also working to digitizing some 500 of these MSMEs. Mrs. Yankey-Ayeh, disclosed that her outfit is working to digitise these businesses in the country to enable the businesses expand their operations locally and prepare for the international market.
“The need to digitise MSMEs in the country is critical, as they are the backbone of the economy,” she said adding that: “We (NBSSI) have gone into partnership with the German government to ensure that 500 MSMEs are digitalised and ready to face the world; and this will start hopefully next week to March 2021.”
She noted that: “Digitalisation has come to stay; it is now and the future, and we need it to grow business and access the markets – including the international market.”
A Director at the NBSSI, Habiba Sumani stressed that it is now more important than ever for businesses to realise that to remain competitive there is need to adopt new and relevant technologies in their field of operations.
In view of that, NBSSI has put in some measures to fill the gap and make some common technological tools not only available but also accessible to assist women in their business operations. The NBSSI believes this move will aid them to become efficient and improve their business processes and procedures by cutting down inefficiency.