With Alagie Manneh
The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry introduces the ‘Digital Jula Initiative’ which seeks to facilitate digital inclusion, digital literacy, and exhibition opportunity for youth and woman-owned businesses that demonstrated job creation capability. The initiative is being introduced as a form of substitute to the Chamber’s annual Trade Fair, which has been postponed due to the pandemic.
Businesses particularly SMEs continue to feel the weight and economic effects of the pandemic. With reduction in sales, networking opportunities, customer reach, and market base, small businesses had observed a sharp fall in their revenue generation thus affecting all facets of their operations as it extends uncertainty over their existence post COVID19.
To mitigate these issues, the Chamber introduces the Digital Jula Initiative, which looks to deliver the following:
– Digital literacy
– Visibility for SMEs
– On boarding on E-Commerce and Crowd funding platforms
Guided by an apt expertise, selected beneficiaries will be availed subsidized visibility on TV and Online. The aim is to expose the businesses to the general public with an insight of the entrepreneurs, their processes, products, and contact. This would mitigate lost opportunities the TFGI (Trade Fair Gambia International) would have presented in terms of product visibility, networking, and outreach,” the Chamber said.
The Chamber explained that the initiative would be followed by digital literacy training for those that will need it and their onboarding to E-commerce platforms for online presence. “E-commerce has proved to present an alternate access to market channel for all businesses, this became more apparent during the current COVID period. It is therefore deemed fitting that beneficiaries under this initiative be taken through the opportunities for online presence and prepare them for onboarding as a follow up mechanism,” it added.
Scaling down to survive
The Chamber observes that businesses scaled down operations to a minimum that will allow their survival and hopefully see their businesses through the down time of COVID.
“As efforts of adaptation and recovery are in gear by the numerous stakeholders including government and non-state actors, GCCI had initiated a survey of the impact of COVID19 on businesses in addition to raising GMD20,000,000 in support of the national response plan,” the Chamber stated.
A way out for MSMEs
MSMEs in The Gambia are the primary job creators, contributing more than 26% of real GDP and accounting for 63% of employment.
According to a COVID-19 survey conducted by GCCI, 70 percent of private sector operators are MSMEs. “The survey goes further to highlight the fact that 100% of respondents of Gambian MSMEs, startups and corporate businesses’ operations have been impacted by the COVID 19 crisis. This initiative comes at a very vital time, especially in times of COVID-19 where many businesses have been dormant with partial or total job losses, scaling down of operations, and liquidity crisis. The crisis threatens to derail the National Development Plan target, which aims to increase the MSME contribution of employment in the economy from 63% to 75%.”
Digital and new technologies create an opportunity for MSMEs to increase their reach and efficiency at lower costs.
“Immense benefits are derived from a shift to integrate small businesses to the digital economy. Research results show that companies that embrace digitization in their go-to-market strategy gain 5 times faster revenue growth compared with previous levels, 30 percent increase in efficiency, and 40 to 60 percent cost reductions within sales. The GCCI Businesses Against COVID-19 Survey nearly half of all businesses surveyed are confident in their ability to provide their products and services virtually, validating a good adoption rate through digital literacy,” the Chamber noted.
A recent study on E-Commerce (supported by the UNDP) and implemented by GCCI to analyze the viability of online business platforms in The Gambia has identified E-commerce as an innovative business model which presents a huge opportunity for SMEs in The Gambia to complete transactions efficiently and in a secure and convenient manner as done in other economies in the sub region and the continent at large. The study, “highlighted the fact that with just a few infrastructural and other public policy changes to allow interoperability and functional payment gate ways, The Gambia could be ecommerce vibrant to eventually facilitate the NDP realization.
“Through this initiative, we strongly believe that a favorable business environment could be created, where e-business strategies are actively promoted and creating awareness, digital literacy will be harnessed to improve MSME’s capacity on latest technologies and skills.”
Trade Fair postponed
The much-awaited trade exhibition for 2020 has been temporarily postponed and as a result businesses will lose out on the networking, sales, and other opportunities the TFGI would usually present. Over 90 youth where expected to benefit from the Youth Pavilion under the TFGI whilst 450 other businesses who had already subscribed for stalls saw all come to a standstill worsening their plight. However, the ‘Digital Jula Initiative’ will go a long way in providing an alternate.
∑ Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry
∑ Ministry of Trade
∑ United Nations Development Program
∑ YOUTH OWNED BUSINESS
∑ BUSINESSES WITH SIGNIFICANT YOUTH EMPLOYEES
∑ To create subsidized visibility for 100 businesses and enhance market access
∑ To deliver digital literacy programs to 100 business owners for sustained online presence
∑ To onboard the 100 beneficiaries to e-commerce platforms