The Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) in partnership with Mastercard Foundation and African Management Institute (AMI) has developed a draft of the national business development services (BDS) standards which will build the capacity of providers to serve micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
This intervention is aimed at improving technical support to MSMEs which are critical for economic growth and job creation as well as offer business development service providers with training to increase their capacity to serve MSMEs.
Business Development Services are a wide range of nonfinancial services used by entrepreneurs to help them improve the performance of their businesses, access to markets and ability to compete. BDS providers include individuals, companies and associations offering general business capability-building services such as training, coaching, business incubation, consulting and business accelerators.
According to Francis Kisirinya, chief membership officer at PSFU, the BDS standards drafted have been informed by international best practice BDS delivery, standard expertise and the local Ugandan context.
To uphold a consultative and participatory manner to the development of BDS standards, a technical working group was set up in order to fully consider the views and perspectives of key actors in the MSME ecosystem in Uganda. This multi-sector working group included eminent business, industry, academia and public sector representatives in Uganda’s MSME development ecosystem.
There are two key standards that will be rolled out to be able to enhance the capacities of BDS providers and MSMEs. The first standard focuses on competency and internal capacity for the BDS providers to address weak management practices within BDS provider organizations and poor investability of BDS organisations.
This standard will focus on areas such as leadership, planning, operations and resource management. The second standard focuses on service delivery to provide guidelines for the effective delivery of Business Development Services to an MSME, addressing poor quality of BDS provision with gaps such as contextualisation, segmentation, specialization among others.
The standard focuses on guiding principles in key areas such as leadership, planning, operations, talent/people and money. The two standards developed and have been submitted to the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) for approval and gazette but in the meantime, they will be used as benchmarks that will be utilised by the BDS service providers in the ecosystem while providing services to MSMEs.
“We know that investing in high-quality BDS can accelerate MSME growth and create jobs. BDS providers compliant with world-class standards and research can spark meaningful change for Ugandan MSMEs such as increase in MSME performance, preservation and creation of jobs and improved livelihoods. BDS providers can also experience benefits such as sharpened skills through standards dissemination and training, improved income opportunities and quality standardized services that MSMEs are willing to pay for,” Kisirinya said.
In efforts to implement the developed standards, PSFU will conduct various training and engagements with the various BDS service providers and users in the country. The campaign will also equip organisations, entrepreneurs and business professionals with information on Uganda's newly formulated business development support standards, tools, mentorship and resources needed to drive sustainable business growth.
“In addition, through a combination of mentorship, workshops and strategic resources, participants will have the opportunity to gain insights on business development standards, acquire practical strategies to navigate business challenges and seize opportunities, establish meaningful connections within the business community and access a suite of resources including training and practical online tools,” noted Kisirinya.
The sensitization will take six weeks starting in mid-September in four regions across the country; Kampala, Masaka, Gulu, Mbale and Mbarara where there will be two days of in person training for the BDS providers and 12 months of programme support through the AMI platform with a target of reaching 200 BDS providers mainly serving youth and women-led businesses as well as rural based enterprises.
John Walugembe, executive director of the Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises acknowledged that many businesses find it difficult to find genuine experts who can help and advise them on how to grow and therefore this BDS standard-making process is a welcome development.
“We need standards in the delivery of BDS. A lot of SMEs have approached BDS providers and reached sub standard services and in many instances have lost money. We need a caliber of BDS providers that are professional and meet certain standards and expectations in terms of service delivery and I think this process goes a long way in solving this problem.”