AMI

AMI Online Bootcamp: Tools for Managing Risk and Learning from Others - Mathew Rwahigi

The SME Response Clinic is a digital platform powered by ConsumerCentriX, Access to Finance Rwanda, and Rwanda Private Sector Federation to support small and medium enterprises in Rwanda struggling to adjust to the economic realities of COVID-19. To provide much-needed training opportunities for the entrepreneurs, the SME Response Clinic joined forces with the African Management Institute.

Testimonial: Matthew Rwahigi, Owner, Thella Café – Saturday May 30, 2020

Matthew Rwahigi, a small business owner in Gisozi, was hit hard when the COVID-19 lockdowns began in Kigali. Luckily, as a participant in AMI’s trainings for small businesses, he learned the skills to negotiate with suppliers and his landlords and to make the tough decisions needed to help his business survive.

“The conversations and hearing from other colleagues through the AMI workshops, you feel like you’re not alone. At first I thought maybe I was in the wrong business, this was a bad idea, I just burnt my savings for no good reasons. But then you hear other people and you feel that you are in this with so many others. It gives you the strength to stay the course and find the resources to manage.”

What was most valuable for you about the AMI trainings?

First, I learned to focus on learning how to manage a business. I got to focus a bit on my business. Since I Getting to focus a bit – I hadn’t done business in the past, I did not have the tools and skills to plan and make tough decisions, like having to lay off staff.

Second, I benefited from networking and finding out what other people are going through. I learned a lot from this. I really value the community of business people and their input, because if my business is going to survive, I need these relationships. Now at least I have some knowledge, and if my business doesn’t survive, and if I started another business I would be better informed, and more empowered.

How has AMI supported you?

AMI is there when you need to ask a question, to give you tips and ideas. There is an online business portal with tools and courses, and these are important in continuing to build skills.

“The AMI group really helped us in empowering us to feel that this is not the end of the road, to have a feeling that yes, there is a pandemic but you can still try to tune your business up a bit to survive the pandemic, and even have an opportunity to continue after the pandemic.”


African Management Institute

AMI Online Bootcamp: Tools for Managing Risk and Learning from Others - Yannick

The SME Response Clinic is a digital platform powered by ConsumerCentriX, Access to Finance Rwanda, and Rwanda Private Sector Federation to support small and medium enterprises in Rwanda struggling to adjust to the economic realities of COVID-19. To provide much-needed training opportunities for the entrepreneurs, the SME Response Clinic joined forces with the African Management Institute.

Testimonial: Yannick Tuyishime, CEO and co-founder of Tsapal Company Ltd

Yannick Tuyishime is the CEO and co-founder of Tsapal Company Ltd, a footwear and apparel manufacturing company since late 2019.  The company was brand new when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but participating in the AMI Bootcamphelped to keep business afloat during crisis.

“When we came up with the idea for our company, we saw that there are many problems in the community that we can do something about. The first is that there are high rates of unemployment in Rwanda and in Africa. The other is that we see that we can do something that can do boost Made in Rwanda products. Import taxes are high in Rwanda, and so by increasing Made in Rwanda products we can fill the gap by bringing prices down and manufacturing locally.”

With the AMI Bootcamp, Yannick learned how to better manage cashflow, negotiate with his landlord, improve communications between staff and with customers, and assess and plan for risks. This allowed him to receive a reduction on rent during the worst part of the lockdown, as well as to keep all staff employed by making some salary reductions as well as cutting down on unnecessary costs. The company even reduced some of the product prices so as to keep customers on board and not lose them during the pandemic.

Yannick encourages other Rwandan entrepreneurs to attend AMI’s courses and upcoming Bootcamps so that they too can benefit from the toolkit and learn to manage risks, negotiate with customers and suppliers, and bring larger visions to fruition while dealing with today’s challenges.

“I appreciate the AMI Bootcamp because now I record weekly all of our expenses in the business and use the project management plan. The other thing is that I’ve learned how to assess some risks – like in this time, what I’ve learned from AMI bootcamp is that I can sit down and see what is not going well, what is going well, in cash management. I can make an action plan to meet the risks that I’ve assessed. Wholeheartedly, I can’t thank AMI enough and I encourage everyone to attend AMI Bootcamps and for those who have already attended to take some of the other courses that they provide. When someone wants to grow a business sustainably the AMI bootcamp will really help.”


Online Business Bootcamp

AMI Online Bootcamp: Tools for Managing Risk and Learning from Others - Justine Ntaganda

The SME Response Clinic is a digital platform powered by ConsumerCentriX, Access to Finance Rwanda, and Rwanda Private Sector Federation to support small and medium enterprises in Rwanda struggling to adjust to the economic realities of COVID-19. To provide much-needed training opportunities for the entrepreneurs, the SME Response Clinic joined forces with the African Management Institute.

Testimonial: Justine Ntaganda, Owner, La Corniche Hotel in Rubavu and Nyabihu, and Salma Nkusi, Manager (it is a family business)

Justine Ntaganda and Salma Nkusi operate the “La Corniche” hotels in two locations in Rwanda, Rubavu and Nyabihu. The hospitality and tourism industry has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the mother-daughter team has found that the AMI trainings have provided an opportunity to take a step back, learn new business skills, and make decisions that will help the hotels to thrive in the future.

What was most valuable for you about the AMI trainings?

“My daughter Salma and I have benefited enormously from the tools shared by AMI. For me personally, the advice shared on tools for better collaboration helped us to choose to use “One Drive” to share information. The tool for analyzing clients’ needs was also an interesting exercise during this time because demand has changed a lot. It is important that we adapt and continue to do our business.” ~ Justine Ntaganda

With the AMI tools, we are now able to check our books on a weekly basis, track cashflow and be accountable. Now, we even have a meeting on a weekly basis with our staff using the data and make decisions about where we stand. Where do we need to cut, for example?

These tools are helping with day-to-day management and the trainings have provided content in an understandable way. What’s more, the session on goal setting has been very great. Now as a team we talk and think together about our long-term goals and put them in writing as well. This helps us to prioritize and to decide how we will track our progress together.

“AMI is pushing me towards the implementation of all of these new ideas that I had but weren’t written down, and didn’t have a timeline –the tools are great, and looking at budgeting of the organization is something that we need to have in place for banks in terms of funding, too.” ~ Salma Nkusi

How has AMI supported you?

For us, it has been like going back to school, only for our personal growth and for the benefit of our business. AMI has helped us create a budget, and not only that, but to learn how to communicate with our staff so that they clearly see that there are reasons that we make the financial decisions we need to make.

One other interesting area of support from AMI is their “A New Rise” daily meditation. It’s another way to start your day by clearing your mind, breathing, and planning instead of waking up and feeling as if you are just facing emergencies.


VIDEO | Introducing the COVID-19 Business Information Hub

To provide the much-needed information and solutions for Ugandan entrepreneurs struggling with the financial consequences of the pandemic, Stanbic Bank has partnered with ConsumerCentriX on the Covid-19 Business Info Hub.


VIDEO | Introducing the SME Response Clinic

To support entrepreneurs in Rwanda struggling to adjust to the economic realities of Covid-19, the Rwanda Private Sector Federation has partnered with Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) and ConsumerCentriX on the SME Response Clinic.


Key Takeaways from the SME Response Clinic

By Anna Gincherman, Partner at ConsumerCentrix, and Jean Bosco Iyacu, Director of Programs at Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR)

With 148,092 registered Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Rwanda representing 99.7 percent of the businesses according to the Integrated Business Enterprise Survey (2017) by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), this sector plays a pivotal role in the country’s socio-economic development. However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, this key driver of growth for Rwanda became imperiled as MSMEs across the country faced disruptions in the supply chain, demand and economic uncertainty.

To support entrepreneurs in Rwanda struggling in their time of need,  Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) partnered with ConsumerCentriX and Rwanda Private Sector Federation on the SME Response Clinic. The platform was launched on May 3rd, a little over a month after Rwanda entered lockdown.

The goal of the digital platform is to address information asymmetry through the establishment of a centralized location for MSMEs to learn about the new policies, regulations, support structures and product innovations developing in response to the crisis and essential financial advice and business training. For all articles, simple language and a straightforward tone is used, and content is made available in both English and Kinyarwanda (the only local language that is used by all Rwandans).

However, as we all know, a website alone is not enough to drive traffic. To increase outreach, a Facebook page and Twitter account and campaign were launched the same week as the website. An Instagram profile was created a few weeks later.  Since the launch of these channels, content promoting the website has been viewed on Social Media 4,032,652 times.

Beginning with no followers and an ambitious goal of becoming the go-to site for entrepreneurs in Rwanda during Covid-19 meant investing in advertisements. The promotional strategy differed by channel. For Twitter, the SME Response Clinic originally partnered with influencers on a campaign before switching to a strictly organic promotional strategy. For Facebook, there is a heavy focus on article promotions by directly targeting small and medium business owners. In addition to driving traffic to web articles, the content and advertisement strategy evolved as results proved Facebook to be a popular channel for amassing video and live event views.

As the platform grew so did the list of partners. The SME Response Clinic joined forces with the Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda, New Faces New Voices Rwanda, African Management Institute, Argidius Foundation, Rwanda Bankers’ Association, and Tustawi. These partnerships ensure that the content on the website reflects diverse perspectives. Partners also play a critical role in promoting web content to their external audiences.

Through these partnerships, three Facebook live webinars were organized focusing on the banking and microfinance sectors response to the Covid-19 pandemic and on how the Economic Recovery Fund and other relief measures put in place by the Government of Rwanda would benefit women entrepreneurs during and post Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Key Takeaways

The last ten weeks have been a period of intense testing and optimizing. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Content in Kinyarwanda is critical to reach the target audience. It performs better than content in English for most topics, particularly for articles on government measures and articles on the banking and microfinance sectors’ responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Women need to be explicitly targeted in order to ensure gender parity. At present, 48 percent of visitors are women despite an initial gender gap that heavily skewed toward men visitors. Achieving gender parity with traffic views meant actively creating pieces of content for women entrepreneurs and targeting them specifically on Facebook. Given the additional challenges many women entrepreneurs face in general and how they have been disproportionately affected as a result of Covid-19, this demonstrates the platform’s value by offering much-needed support for women entrepreneurs.
  • Social media channels are effective ways to market the SME Response Clinic, with Facebook yielding the best results by far accounting for 64 percent of all referral traffic and reaches over 170,000 users per month. The SME Response Clinic is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and uses both organic and paid advertising to promote content. While the Twitter campaign yielded higher levels of impressions, Facebook proved to be significantly more cost-effective when it came to engagements and website clicks.
  • Video is essential for keeping users engaged with the content. Data from Facebook suggests that people are more likely to watch an entire video then click on an article and a recent survey on the SME Clinic conducted also revealed that users are twice as likely to prefer content in a video or animation format than in a written article format.
  • Web traffic and social media performance is very closely correlated to the publication of new content and event promotion. Weekly reviews of visitors and views indicate that it is critical to post new content and promote events as often as possible to drive visits to the portal.  
  • Strong partnerships are key to the platform’s success in that they bring perspectives of their members and constituents to inform content development. Also, they are vital in supporting outreach by sending targeted information via SMS and WhatsApp to their networks.

While the lockdown has slowly been lifted, the economic consequences of the pandemic can still be felt by micro, small, and medium enterprises across Rwanda. These key takeaways will continue to inform the content and promotional strategy for SME Response Clinic as the platform continues to provide information and resources for entrepreneurs in Rwanda coming to terms with the new normal.


Post-COVID

What Post-COVID Survival Could look like for Ugandan Tourism Business

ConsumerCentriX is partnering with Stanbic Bank Uganda on the Covid-19 Business Info to provide to entrepreneurs across Uganda with reliable information to help them overcome the challenges of the pandemic. A version of this article was originally posted on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.

The COVID-19 Business Info Hub spoke with David Gonahasa, an African tourism enthusiast and CEO of Tripxio, an SME that has built a unique solution to help tourism businesses survive through the serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the lessons SMEs in the sector can learn from to ensure their survival post-COVID.

What have the effects of COVID-19 been on the tourism sector?

From the onset, 2020 screamed opportunity for Uganda tourism. The year on year growth trend was expected to continue, and operators were looking to drive sales as high as possible in anticipation of a possible slowdown caused by 2021 being an election year.

Four months into the year, the entire tourism sector, which contributes 7.5% of GDP, shut down due to COVID-19. The largest hotel chains have laid off staff, some operators are completely bowing out, and according to Uganda Tourism Board, about 460,000 jobs are on the line. The lockdown will soon be over, and people will travel again; however, for some operators, the damage may be irreparable. It could be up to a year before international tourists, who have long been the core backbone of the sector revenue, start to flock Uganda again. Without these visitors, operators that start over will still be in the eye of the storm and will have to be at their most innovative to navigate this period.

What does survival look like?

Sector specialists expect that tourism will restart with domestic and regional market bookings and that eventually international tourists will return. This brings up questions around how to target the domestic market and whether the market is sufficiently large to keep the sector afloat. Targeting domestic and regional tourists may be a viable option for operators to not only create cash flows post-COVID but also start to rebuild destination confidence, particularly since most people (including international tourists) will travel to places where other people go.

Is the market sufficiently large? Yes. The African Development Bank reports Uganda’s middle class makes up 18% of the population, which is about 7.2 million people. The same report places the upper-middle-class number at about 1.5 million individuals. This would indicate that there are over 1 million Ugandans likely to be able to afford to pay for tourism or experience-related products, as well as groups like schools and churches.

What is important is changing the mindset around domestic or regional travel and finding new ways of communicating customer experience. Local tourism operators have long been reluctant to focus on the domestic market with the viewpoint that “Ugandans don’t travel.” This view is now gradually changing to “Ugandans prefer to travel to international destinations as opposed to local National Parks.” Data from Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) that indicates that 49,000 Ugandans traveled to the Emirate in 2018 may confirm this view when taking into account that this is larger than the number of East African Residents who traveled to most Ugandan National Parks in the same year. The value to the potential domestic or regional tourist traveling to a Ugandan National Park needs to be effectively communicated – and that means highlighting things like price, convenience, scenic beauty, and the customer experience that can be expected. Marketing should focus on being empathetic and relatable – it is not the time for “come to my destination” type marketing. The #TravelTomorrow campaign is one to ride on.

How can industry players practically re-invent themselves post-COVID?

In more developed markets, tourism is highly fragmented and specialized. Products are tailored to suit the target audience’s needs and desires. This innovation creates differentiation and relevance for operators. It drives consistent bookings. In Uganda, tourism is still characterized by product homogeneity, Operators sell the same National Park deals, for the same number of days, and in many cases, even for the same price. For competing operators, conversion comes down to how much an agent has to spend on marketing or how well networked they are.

A few recommendations to consider include:

Rethink and redevelop products.

Operators should:

  • Identify their target customers. Who are operators selling to?
  • Understand their motivations to purchase tourism or experience products. Are they looking to relax? To engage with culture and history?
  • Build products around that, ensuring that what are you selling and why they should buy from you are clear.

Rethink distribution & digitalize business operations.

With an effective technology solution, an operator can start distributing packages and promotions for later dates, accept installments, and start to guarantee revenues. Business survival calls for improving efficiency across many areas, primarily product distribution, conversion, and maximizing customer spend. Digitalizing tourism sales and operations is one way to achieve this, enabling front end e-commerce and back end operations capabilities.

Digitalization has for long seemed very expensive and out of reach for many operators; however, there are a number of solutions today that will allow an operator to achieve this at a fraction of the cost. Tripxio (hello@tripxio.com) is one such solution that helps businesses develop, distribute, and sell tourism and experience products online. It allows businesses access to e-commerce websites, itinerary builders, digital marketing, and bookings and payments systems, and generally enables them to manage back-office operations and customer relationships all in one place. This solution is a software as a service model, which implies a limited cost of acquisition to the business with the benefits of running an in-house technology team.

Get creative about marketing and public relations.

Marketing and public relations activities should not stop for agents, even if travel is limited. It is pertinent to remain visible and use this time to build customer expectations. Marketing should focus on being empathetic and relatable – it is not the time for “come to my destination” type marketing. The #TravelTomorrow campaign is one to ride on. Communicate what your business is doing to be better post-COVID and what inclusive tourism strategies are being implemented to ensure sustainability not only for the business but also for nearby communities. Answer questions like “What is the business story? Why does it matter?” As the lockdown is loosened and people start to travel, show that people are coming to your destinations. This will drive confidence, and more visitors will come. If you are unsure of how to craft this kind of messaging yourself, there are numerous communications professionals out there that can support this process.


needs of SMEs in Uganda

COVID-19: Challenges, coping mechanisms, and urgent needs of SMEs in Uganda

By Alejandra Rios

ConsumerCentriX recently interviewed entrepreneurs in Kampala, to learn about their current challenges, coping mechanisms, and urgent needs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are some highlights from those conversations.

Local measures impacted most entrepreneurs

  • Lockdown, shutdown, and social distancing are top of mind measures for all entrepreneurs. The direct consequences of these measures include a drastic decline in daily sales, an increase in the price of goods, and a reduction in the supply of those goods, which has resulted in loss of revenue for most.
  • The reduction in revenue has additional consequences, including difficulties to pay business rent, bank loans, suppliers, employee salaries, and family expenses.
  • COVID-19 has affected the entire value chain, from suppliers being unable to deliver on existing orders or contracts due to logistical challenges to wholesalers and retailers that stocked up when the pandemic was first announced, and now many are suffering for not generating enough income to pay back to suppliers.

SMEs’s coping strategies

  • SMEs in Uganda are using a variety of different strategies to avoid permanent closure, including keeping in close contact with suppliers, placing and accepting orders via phone, delivering products by motorcycle, and even using their personal Facebook accounts to market their products or services.
  • Other SME owners have downsized, temporarily closed, reduced the number of employees or laid off employees. They stopped stocking up general goods, and have instead focused on stocking fast-moving goods. A number of them based in Kampala have also decided to send their families to their home villages to work in agriculture as a way of diversifying income and reducing family expenses.
  • Some are also suspending payments on bank loans or withdrawing funds from their savings accounts (in many cases, these funds were meant to pay for school fees) to save their businesses from being evicted.

What  SMEs urgently need

  • To survive this crisis, SMEs need urgent flexible and affordable financing and non-financial support to help them to become more resilient and adapt to the new market conditions.
  • While optimistic by nature, entrepreneurs would benefit from building their skills in things like how to keep in touch and negotiate with their suppliers; how to communicate with and deliver to their customers; how to digitalize their businesses; and how to manage their operational expenses such as employee salaries. An equally important topic would center around how to keep mental well-being in these times of crisis.

Meet the Business Info Hub

In this context, ConsumerCentriX in partnership with Stanbic Bank recently launched the COVID 19 Business Info Hub, a platform designed to help entrepreneurs navigate the changing environment.

The Business Info Hub provides entrepreneurs with insights and tools to better manage their businesses.  In partnership with the African Management Institute (AMI), entrepreneurs can also access a suite of programs through their COVID-19 Business Survival Bootcamp, ranging from cash-flow forecasting to adjusting products or services for new customer segments, and from repurposing existing assets to meditation sessions that help promote mental well-being.

We invite you to explore the https://covid19businessinfohub.com/ to find the tools most appropriate for your own situation. And if you don’t find what you need, just let us know so we can try to find the best way to help you!


SME Response Clinic on RwandaTV

The SME Response Clinic is featured by RwandaTV

The SME Response Clinic is featured by RwandaTV

ConsumerCentriX is proud to partner on the SME Response Clinic with Access to Finance Rwanda and Rwanda Private Sector Federation


Business survival Bootcamp at CNBC Africa

CNBC NEWS |Rwandan entrepreneurs treated to Covid-19 business survival boot camp

Rwandan entrepreneurs treated to Covid-19 business survival Bootcamp

Access to Finance Rwanda in partnership with the African Management institute, the Private Sector Federation and others, has launched a new webinar series dubbed, ‘The Business Survival Bootcamp’, through their website, SME Response Clinic. The program is designed to help entrepreneurs navigate the unique challenges that have presented themselves as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and is slated to begin next week. Head of Programs at AFR, Jean Bosco Iyacu joins CNBC Africa for more.

WATCH FULL INTERVIEW