The COVID-19 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.

COVID-19 has served as a warning of the need for change and may serve as an engine of innovation around the world, especially in Africa.

Despite the 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 existence.

Recognising 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.

The response to the call was overwhelming. Several organisations and individuals welcomed the initiative and shared solutions and resources using the hashtag #Support4AfricaSMEs.

Despite these 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.

Championed by 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.

Support4AfricaSMEs 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 pandemic.
  • 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 State, Nigeria.
  • 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 speakers.
  • 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 chain.
  • 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 Abdulrazaq.
  • 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, 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.

Parminder Vir 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.

Through all 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.

We are grateful to our partners, including Big Dutchman, Clarke Energy, AgroCentre, JMSF Agribusiness, Ajike People Support Centre,, 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.

We wish everyone a restful Holiday Season and a happy, healthy, and hopeful 2021!

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