By Boris Esono Nwenfor
With the problems faced by Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) such as terms of obtaining finance, lack of appropriate managerial skills, non-compliance with the Tax regulations, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Center (SBEC) of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation organized the 2020 National Forum on the theme “The Entrepreneurship Ecosystem and Strategies for the growth of SMEs in Cameroon”.
The first panel focused on “Access to Finance, & Tax requirements, registration and exemptions for SMEs in Cameroon, while the second panel focused on Business Management, and attracting investors and customers to a Business
“The 2020 SBEC National Forum aims at bringing together young entrepreneurs to share experiences and identify strategies that are imperative for the growth of SMEs in Cameroon,” Fri Asanga, Chief Operating Officer at the Foretia Foundation
Speaking on how to attract customers to your business, Sandra Batey, Project Manager at ECAM said small businesses must make the product attractive for people to buy and this is what most SMEs forget to do. For it to be good it must have the right colours and know how to package it, all which entails branding of the product.
Sandra Batey encouraged SMEs to make use of ICTs such as Facebook and Twitter, all avenues to get their products known to the wider community. “This will make people see your product and help attract customers to your product. Customers now are forgoing buying through stores and are doing so in large quantity using online mediums.” She said.
“SMEs should work on their customer service delivery. Nobody wants to enter a business premise and see people frowning or shouting. You have to spend on your customer service,” Sandra Batey, Project Manager at ECAM.
According to a concept note from the Foundation, statistics from the Ministry of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicrafts, indicates that there are more than 400,000 active companies in the informal sector and out of these, 99% are SMEs, their active presence helps generate growth and redistribute wealth in the society. Their important role in reducing poverty in Cameroon is also gaining recognition.
To Ntinwa Mackinley, Business and Productivity Coach, small business owners must know the kind of investors they want and must have an already active business before seeking investment…Entrepreneurs have the primary responsibility of understanding their business environment
Mackinley went on to encourage the SMEs to invest time in doing research. He said they have to know how to approach people and know the right investors to approach. “SMEs must have a business plan. Many business people do not invest their time in drawing good business plans before meeting potential investors. Entrepreneurs must be responsible in the way they act, dress, and speak,” Ntinwa Mackinley, Business and Productivity Coach.
On his part, Cho Rimsky, Founder and CEO of CreativMoney Africa said small businesses must think like the investor, learn new skills for the growth of their businesses, and work on branding their businesses to attract the right investors and Customers.
Entrepreneurs must also know the environment that they operate in. According to the panellists, they must know the spending power of the population and also take into account their demographics as what one person will want may not be the same the other wants.
During the forum, participants asked questions relating to how they can easily obtain credits, different taxes that exist according to a sector of activity, how to preserve their brand, how to retain investors and others
SMEs contribute around 36% of Cameroon’s GDP, make-up over 90% of businesses in Cameroon, and employ above 60% of the population. That notwithstanding, evident realities indicate that enormous potentials inherent in this sector are unfortunately not fully harnessed – especially given that more than 70% of SMEs still operate informally.
“SMEs must be accountable, must have a savings account, must avoid evading taxes, and must be informed of existing credit mechanisms to ease the process of obtaining loans, Nkwetche Alain Teffo, CEO Dynamic Vision Consulting.
“Small Businesses face difficulties in obtaining Loans because some are not aware of procedures while others cumbersome procedures…SMEs need to come together and recruit experts to assist them in Taxes, Finance and Business registration,” Besong Enokenwa, Financial Expert.