First of all, what is IIA and what is your mandate?
Invest in Africa (IIA), a partnership of leading private sector businesses, working to create better access to skills, markets and finance for local SMEs. We do this through creating sustainable cross-sector partnerships, empowering local enterprise, championing private sector-led growth and simplifying doing business in Africa.
You launched the African Partner Pool platform in 2017, please tell us more about it
The African Partner Pool (APP) is an online technology platform that was designed to bridge the gap between larger organizations and local SMEs, allowing them to do business efficiently. APP directly connects Buyers to a pool of verified suppliers providing diverse products and services.
The APP was launched after a study dubbed “Barriers to Kenyan SMEs growth and investment” was undertaken by IIA and the Strathmore Business School in mid-2016. We found out that SMEs lack access to business opportunities available from their larger counterparts: conversely, Big Businesses often complain about finding reliable and trusted local SMEs that can deliver to meet their standards. The APP’s vetted supplier pool facilitates transparent business in a more timely and cost efficient manner.
What are the main benefits for SMEs and the buyers on the platform?
The platform links Buyers (multinationals and large local corporations) with Suppliers (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) in a transparent and efficient manner.
SMEs who register as APP suppliers get the chance to view and apply for tender opportunities that they may qualify.
They can also display their products and services to a range of buyers and other like-minded SMEs on the Biashara Network.
The platform also has a knowledge hub called the Ujuzi Hub that has numerous practical guides on how to work with big companies and what it takes to gain a competitive advantage. We also conduct trainings for SMEs on the platform to enable them to scale up.
For Buyers, APP gives them access to a credible pool of validated suppliers from across sectors. Suppliers can be searched for by the products and services they deliver and can be filtered by a range of key criteria.
This ensures that they reduce the time, cost and effort of finding the right supplier to do the job and demonstrate commitment to the local economy.
What has been the impact?
Since its launch, the impact of APP is already being felt with over USD $3,340,000 worth of business opportunities posted for the over 900 SMEs currently registered on the platform. This has simplified the tendering process for companies and generated exposure for tender opportunities and reduced the cost and time spent acquiring suppliers.
The Buyers on the platform include Tullow Oil, Equity Bank, Safaricom, Nation Media Group, EY, Shell, AMSCO, KenInvest and Strathmore Business School, who have signed a charter committing to support the growth of SMEs by providing commercial opportunities on the APP platform.
Access to Finance is a big problem for SMEs, how do you tackle that?
Most SMEs complain of lack of access to finance and that’s where our financial partner Equity bank comes in.
Through APP, small business are able to seamlessly access finance when one wins a tender on the platform but does not have financial muscle to execute it. Equity bank provides them with the requisite finance to complete the tender.
What are the future projections for IIA and APP, what should we expect?
IIA’s 10-year (up to 2027) vision is to create thriving African economies by having USD 1 billion worth of tenders won on the APP and creating 100,000 jobs across the continent.
We aim to engage in more partnerships with both public and private sector organisations to promote transparency and encourage greater participation, particularly for SMEs.
Any last words?
As IIA, we are focused on job creation and improving the business environment for both investors and local SMEs. We therefore encourage SMEs to join the platform by visiting www.appkenya.com and registering their businesses.