Mrs. Akofa Dakwa, Executive Head, Risk Management & Financial Markets & Risk Management Expert, Bank of Africa, has noted that there are a number of measures that businesses, especially small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs) can take to enable them continue to stay in business during this period of the coronavirus pandemic.
She explained that the COVID-19 is wreaking havoc to all businesses across the globe, hence businesses must adopt aggressive measures to withstand the effect of the virus.
Speaking during a webinar for SME business owners, business managers and entrepreneurs as organized by Bank of Africa (BOA) on Tuesday July 28, Mrs. Dakwa said, among other things, that what businesses will need to do at the moment is to review their business plans and their entire operations.
The businesses will need to adjust their business plans and operations to focus on profitable exiting and new areas and also cut waste, she said.
“They have to optimize pricing structures – employ job costing, review and renegotiate terms to optimize profit margins. Receivables management - automate invoicing system, negotiate upfront payments, and offer convenient payment methods.
“Accounts payables management – Negotiate very favorable terms and seek to time payments with receipts of revenues from the finished work,” she said.
Regarding cash flow, she said the businesses will have to do cash flow forecasting – weekly, monthly, yearly cash flow projections and keep buffers. Financing – use the right kind of financing at each phase of business.”
She further noted that the lack of access to credit is often cited by business owners as one of the key challenges to their growth and expansion.
SMEs have peculiar challenges with accessing finances – Banks often find it difficult to meet the needs of SMEs of their businesses is not structured.
Regarding how these SMEs can overcome access to credit challenge, she stated that: “SMEs need to maintain bookkeeping, use the banking system for all transactions to show good banking turnovers, show proof of market access, good business plans, competence and skills, show proof of track record, good corporate governance, succession plans.”
Bank of Africa (BOA) is offering credit reliefs to SMEs to keep them afloat in the wake of the coronavirus, she said. This comes in the form of cost relief – reduction in interest and charges, Availability of payment and transaction channels – MoMo: internet banking, Advisory- capacity building; network confirmation of suppliers and buyers, Products – SME support facility, trade finance, vehicle finance.
With regards to risk management, she advised businesses to have a risk management plan that should detail strategies for dealing with all specific risks to reduce the impact of uncertainty.
“The businesses will need to have a continuity plan: should cover employees, the owner, premises, IT systems and software used, markets, customers, suppliers,” she said.
For his part, the Managing Director of Bank of Africa, Mr. Kobby Andah noted that SMEs have been at the heart of the bank’s operations.
He said the bank is making available special packages to support SMEs because these small businesses do not have the capacity to withstand the effects of the pandemic like what the multinational companies have. SMEs are “a prime segment of BOA Group” he said.
He added that: “Unfortunately they don’t have the clout the big multinational companies have to navigate their way out. “We have taken upon ourselves to provide them with that opportunity. Our businesses have to be sustained in the Covid,” he emphasized.
Other speakers during the webinar were Taaka Awori - CEO, Busara Africa, Leadership Trainer and Certified Executive Coach. Leticia Browne – Director, Intelligent Capital Entrepreneurship Development Organization and Dr. Amanobea Boateng – Founder & CEO, Women’s DNA Fund, Female Entrepreneurship and SME Development Expert.
Dr. Amonobea Boateng told the gathering of over 150 business owners that that businesses will need to take advantage of modern technology to operate during this period.
“Let’s invest in ourselves now, invest in our businesses and see how we can move the business into the future. Let take advantage of technology,” she said.
Taaka Awori also said businesses need leaders who can think outside the box to enable their firms to grow. Businesses need leaders who are disrupters, she said.
“People who think outside the box also have a step ahead of managing crisis as their innovativeness is brought to bear. These are game changers, these leaders who disrupts themselves before they are disrupted. They are able to see opportunity in a crisis,” she said. She again reiterated agility as a strong pillar for leaders, their ability to think, move quickly and easily is the number one differentiator between others.