pandemic has been an unprecedented, and truly global event. The disease, and
efforts at treatment, prevention and infection control have had a ripple effect
on health and economic systems worldwide. It has also impacted our social
systems – people all over the world have struggled with isolation and
redundancy, and have had to renegotiate how we live, work, and interact with
the rest of the world.
served as a warning of the need for change and may serve as an engine of
innovation around the world, especially in Africa.
severe impact of the pandemic and its associated lockdown, the many African
entrepreneurs we encountered remained hopeful rather than despairing. With 80%
of the African economy being informal, we realised that putting SMEs in
lockdown, without any form of assistance, deprived them of their daily
our access to a vast network of African SMEs, and with knowledge and
information on SMEs, COVID-19: A Call for Support for African SMEs was
launched on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram on the 1st April 2020.
It was a
call to action, to encourage African
SMEs to share their stories, curate and share solutions to the challenges posed
by the economic impact of the pandemic on small businesses, enable SMEs to
engage with their governments, and connect the African entrepreneurship
ecosystem to development partners who could provide support.
to the call was overwhelming. Several organisations and individuals welcomed
the initiative and shared solutions and resources using the hashtag
simple beginnings on the social media pages of the convener, Parminder Vir OBE,
the Support4AfricaSMEs campaign has risen to strengthen African entrepreneurs
during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, now with a website
and dedicated pages across all major social media platforms.
a team of pan-African volunteers with backgrounds ranging from media to
agriculture, technology and healthcare, the Support4AfricaSMEs campaign shares
African SMEs’ stories of hope, innovation and resilience. In-kind resources and
schemes such as funding opportunities and digital solutions are crowd-sourced
and shared to support African SMEs and the African entrepreneurship ecosystem.
The campaign has also included advocacy for African SMEs to governments,
policymakers and donor agencies to its activities.
has three flagship projects.
- Propagating Hope
is a series of infographics and articles published on social media that
highlight the stories of businesses, organisations and individuals who are
creating change in their local communities against the odds and in the face of
- The African SME Story,
hosted by Linda Ochugbua featured weekly interviews with small and
medium scale entrepreneurs across Africa through Instagram Live, with the interviews
shared to YouTube and as articles. The
series aimed to tell these entrepreneurs’ stories and struggles through the COVID-19
pandemic, to foster conversation on policies and solutions to the problems
faced by many SMEs, and to inspire hope. The first season ran for 8 weeks and
featured 8 entrepreneurs from different African countries.
- The African Farmers’ Stories
was launched to provide support and to propagate hope to African farmers across
the continent – the unsung heroes of the pandemic. The initiative began with weekly
interviews with African farmers, via Instagram Live, hosted by Uwem
Uwemakpan, with the interviews
shared to YouTube and as articles. Through
these interviews, we heard from farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs around
the continent about how they were surviving despite the pandemic. The series
also sought to offer visibility that could help attract investors or
partnerships to these innovative farmers. The Instagram Live series featured 10
entrepreneurs over 5 weeks.
- The African Farmers’
Stories also produced a short
documentary series, with footage
shot by renowned videographer, Shola Animashaun at selected farms in
Nigeria, showing how they were navigating the pandemic, and drew attention to
the outbreak of African Swine Fever at the Oke-Aro pig settlement in Ogun
- The African Farmers’
Stories initiative continued with weekly tweet chats on Twitter. Hosted by Edobong
Akpabio, these have featured over 15 farmers and entrepreneurs in the
agricultural value chain.
- The initiative has
also grown an impressive community of farmers on WhatsApp and Telegram who learn
from fellow farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs on their journey, challenges
and achievements via interactive weekly sessions.
- The campaign also
organised a number of webinars, as part of our mission to share knowledge with
our community of entrepreneurs. The first webinar was held in July, organised under
The African Farmers’ Stories, and titled The African Farmers’ Stories –
Unlocking the Food Supply Chain amidst COVID-19. It was an inclusive panel discussion
and Q&A session in response to an often-cited problem by farmers who had
been interviewed – the breakdown of the food supply chain during the pandemic. The
webinar featured speakers from various sectors including digital market
players, supporters of local B2B transactions and export-based transactions, agricultural
sector financiers, original equipment manufacturers, advocates for the
agricultural sector, and policy makers. The event was well attended and streamed
to YouTube, with 1,112 people signing
up on Zoom, and highlighted possible solutions to improve the gaps in the food
supply chain. A comprehensive report
on the event was also published, detailing insights and recommendation made by
- The African Farmers’
Stories also celebrated female farmers through the Impactful Rural Women in
Agriculture Award, presented to Atinkue Lebile, co-founder and COO
of Cato Foods and founder of SHEAGRIC Initiative, a passionate advocate for
addressing malnutrition and food insecurity through agriculture and its value
- The African Farmers’
Stories organised a second webinar to mark World Food Day in October. It was a 3-day
webinar tagged Agribusiness: The Need for Patient Capital. The
panellists were drawn from the insurance, agricultural finance and agricultural
investment sectors, and provided illuminating sessions on agricultural
insurance, debt financing in agriculture and portfolio investment in
agriculture. With the wealth of information shared, a second
edition was organised in November to
celebrate Africa Industrialization Day, in partnership with Ajike People
Support Centre and the First Lady of Kwara State, Nigeria – Dr Mrs Olufolake
- Our final event of
the year was a webinar held in December, also organised by The African Farmers’
Stories, tagged Drones Applications for African Agriculture. In
partnership with AgriFoodNetworks.org, Seed2Feed and many more partners, the event
explored the potential for using drones in agriculture, in an African context. Speakers
at the event included agribusiness entrepreneurs, drone pilots, scientists and manufacturers,
data scientists, and agricultural economists and investment experts, and the
panellists spoke on the benefits of drone application, possible challenges, and
innovation that will ensure that drones are well implemented in African agriculture.
The webinar was attended by farmers and agriculture enthusiasts from around the
world – from Nigeria to the Netherlands, Kenya, Singapore, and many more.
OBE, co-founder of Support4AfricaSMEs, shared important initiatives from
organisations like Dalberg and the Jack Ma Foundation, and participated in
several international online forums, conferences and summits to highlight the
importance of supporting African SMEs including the pan-African Digital
Assembly on COVID-19, organised by i4Policy, Rwanda; ILA 5th Women
and Leadership Conference, USA; a virtual conversation on Reimagining
Africa post-COVID, organised by BongoHive, Zambia, and Design Open:
Happy, India, to name but a few.
this, the campaign continues to share resources via its website and social
media pages to its community of African entrepreneurs, such as information on grants
and partnerships, informative webinars and articles.
grateful to our partners, including Big Dutchman, Clarke Energy, AgroCentre, JMSF
Agribusiness, Ajike People Support Centre, AgriFoodNetworks.org, and many
others, and our media partners, Business Day, Business Africa Online, Agric
Watch and National Economy.
Finally, to our
network of SMEs across Africa, we maintain our commitment to supporting their
entrepreneurial drive and spirit, and are excited to see them succeed and
thrive beyond the pandemic.
Now more than
ever, we need to come together to apply our technocratic energies and
imaginations for forging the new economies in a new world environment.
wish everyone a restful Holiday Season and a happy, healthy, and hopeful 2021!