ACET Starts New Transformation Program for Small and Medium Businesses

The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) has admitted the first cohort of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) into its new private sector initiative, ACET Business Transform (ABT). The first 10 SMEs, based in Ghana, were competitively selected from more than 70 applicants by an independent panel of consultants.

Addressing participants at an orientation workshop held September 17, Dr. Edward K. Brown, ACET Senior Director of Research and Policy, underscored the “central importance of small and medium enterprises in the continent’s transformation agenda.”

“Generally, interventions targeted at SME development have been uncoordinated,” Dr. Brown said. “ACET’s PSD approach will help fill the gap between public policy and private sector, to engage more constructively, and to better understand the local dynamics that drive SME businesses.”

The ABT program is a flagship project of ACET’s burgeoning Private Sector Development (PSD) unit, targeting early- to growth-stage SMEs that have a manufacturing or assembly component in their business model.

Mr. Charles Odoom, ACET Head of Private Sector Development, said the ABT program is ACET’s response to the challenges in the local content SME ecosystem. “Through technical and managerial interventions, mentorship, coaching, and direct funding, the program will move SMEs into investment readiness and support their integration into competitive global value chains.”

The daylong workshop took participants through a complete overview of ABT as a unique business accelerator program, providing practical insight into the program’s ambitions, timelines, and, most important, opportunities.

“Currently, our company is at the growth stage, and we need some restructuring,” said Kwesi Etu Bonde, CEO of Sky3 Ltd., one of the participating SMEs. “I expect that ABT will help us transform into a well-focused and well-planned business, ready to get external financial support.”

ACET organized the workshop in collaboration with technical partners from PwC and EVC Africa, business advisory firms that reiterated their readiness to work with the ABT cohort not only to reach program goals but also to grow local businesses.

“We are eager to bring all the knowledge, skills, and experience we have to assist these local SMEs, integrate them into the global value chains, and, ultimately, help transform Ghana’s economy,” said EVC Managing Partner Ed Villars. “We are excited about our partnership with ACET.”

Kwabena Asante Poku, an Advisory Partner with PwC, said his firm will help the SMEs assess their situations and identify current gaps so that they are able to “transform into bigger, better organizations.” He said PwC will also assist ACET in developing an investment readiness tool that will help businesses determine “what type of investor they are actually ready for.”

According to Mr. Odoom, ACET and its technical partners will perform a diagnosis on the participating SMEs to understand their individual needs as a business, and then work with each member of the cohort to develop an implementation plan that will “deliver a fruitful and exciting transformation journey for them.”

In closing the daylong workshop, Mr. Odoom expressed optimism over the SMEs and the overall trajectory of the new program.

“We have ten companies that have the potential to scale,” he said. “Their journey is going to take them to investment readiness and also support them to integrate into global value chains. At the end of the day, we want to see African companies going regional and taking advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area and other new opportunities.”

The ABT program is expected to run for approximately nine months for the initial cohort.

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