How Can We Help Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries?

How Can We Help Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries?

by Donna Rosa

“These enterprises are among the world’s most powerful job creators, drivers of productivity, and agents of growth globally”, states the UN Secretary-General's Chef de Cabinet, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti. “We simply cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without the support and leadership from such enterprises worldwide.”

We hear so much about small business being the engine of economic growth. YAY.

90-95% of all businesses on the planet are MSMEs. WOW. 

Only about half live past their fifth year. BOO. In healthcare that would be a pretty high mortality rate.

If we want to achieve SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth, we must enable the many tiny enterprises in developing countries and emerging economies. Those numbers are interesting indeed.

The World Bank estimates there are 365-445 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) just in emerging markets.  Of those, the vast majority, 285-345 million, are “informal” enterprises.  About 25-30 million are formal SMEs and 55-70 million are formal microenterprises. 

It’s likely that most of those businesses could use some help. They need access to funding, credit, data, technology, and technical support as well as business enabling environments. And then there’s business mentoring and training, an area that hasn’t been given enough attention IMHO and something I’ve ranted about. 

If we develop emerging economy MSMEs maybe we can move at least some of those 285-345 million informal businesses to the formal sector, which would benefit both the businesses and the country economies. That’s how nations get developed.   

There are fantastic organizations, donor agencies, NGOs, companies, and social businesses that are making a dent in poverty with enterprise assistance in various forms. But there are just so many businesses (many in rural areas) that need to be reached.

We tend to put small businesses into giant buckets, but in reality they are hugely different. They range from a woman selling vegetables at a roadside stand in rural India to an innovation-led techpreneur in Silicon Valley. The first is just trying to make enough money to feed her family that day, and the other might be trying to develop technology to help the woman. They certainly need different kinds of support.

There’s a lot we can do to chip away at the problem from various angles, and there’s room for all kinds of assistance for MSMEs in developing countries. For the many entrepreneurs who lack formal business training but require guidance in thinking through their business ideas (or further developing their businesses), there’s a cost-effective option. Together with Agribusiness Academy I’ve developed an online self-paced business plan course that walks rookie entrepreneurs through the entire business planning process. 

“Your Business Planned includes video lessons, a Power Point presentation, and a simple business plan template that’s filled in as learners move through the modules. Business concepts are explained in plain language. It’s real-world learning in the context of the entrepreneur’s own business or business concept. The end result is his or her very own business plan.

The course includes backup worksheets for more difficult concepts and spreadsheets that do double duty as record keeping tools. We also have an online discussion forum and weekly Q&A where learners can ask questions and I will answer via video recordings that are archived and accessible anytime.  

This course is not for the entrepreneurs at the two ends of the spectrum described above. It’s specially designed for emerging-country budding business owners who have limited resources, English language skills, and access to a computer and the internet. It’s very basic but it’s not easy: learners must put in the time to think through the complexities of their businesses, from marketing to operations to resources to finance. 

A business plan is more than a document; it is a vital process that forces the business owner to examine the many elements and interrelationships of a business. 

This is only one aspect of the many forms of support needed for MSMEs in developing countries, but it’s a good starting point. This course is for those who want their business planned.

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