Zambia has continued to witness significant growth in its Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), particularly in the agricultural sector which positively contributes to the food basket not only in Zambia but in the region as a whole. However, many of these enterprises face a number of challenges to grow their businesses.
One of the notable challenges that most SMEs face in the agricultural sector is the lack of access to markets for their goods and services. This is mostly true for enterprises in the rural parts of Zambia.
However, with the availability of modern technologies, reaching a wider market has been made easier through the use of various online tools. It is for this reason that we are happy to work in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through USAID’s Enterprise Development and Growth Enhanced Activity (EDGE) to improve the capacity of Zambian agricultural SMEs to use digital technology.
The EDGE activity is meant to increase the profitability of agricultural SMEs by addressing their key investment constraints on access to finance, limited business management skills and technology, and access to markets thereby increasing SME’s productivity and ability to create new jobs.
The project has been rolled out in the Eastern, Lusaka, and Central provinces of Zambia and intends to fulfill the above-mentioned objective by identifying and supporting agricultural SMEs in rural areas with access to ICT tools through the provision of digital technology education and empowering them to leverage these tools for the enhancement and growth of their businesses. To achieve this, BongoHive in partnership with the USAID EDGE activity is coordinating the implementation of a comprehensive physical and online Digital Marketing program tailored to the specific needs and challenges of the selected SMEs in the Central, Eastern and Lusaka provinces.
Physical and Virtual Training Sessions: Empowering SMEs through Digital Technology
To accommodate the diverse needs of the SMEs and maximize participation, the training sessions were conducted both physically and virtually for the first cohort. In-person workshops were held in easy-to-access locations within the target provinces which accorded an opportunity for participants to interact with their fellow entrepreneurs and trainers. Simultaneously, virtual sessions were conducted through online platforms, fostering an inclusive learning environment where participants from remote locations could engage actively.
With the Covid pandemic which came with several restrictions and limitations, the combination of the physical and virtual training was effective in achieving the activity outcomes. During these months, the participants underwent physical and virtual training sessions coordinated by BongoHive and facilitated by digital marketing experts familiarizing them with the basics of digital technology, hardware, and software, along with the benefits of integrating it into their operations.
The curriculum encompassed a wide array of digital tools and concepts, including social media audit & setup, Google My Business listing, marketplace listing, and digital growth action (Setting SMART Milestones for a profitable and sustainable online presence). The training equipped SMEs with Knowledge of the power of leveraging social media platforms and online marketplaces to reach a broader customer base and facilitate e-commerce transactions.
Further, participants built valuable networks during physical and virtual training sessions, fostering collaboration and shared learning.
Participant Testimonials: Outcomes
The impact of the training on Zambia’s agricultural SMEs is substantial. The participants gained valuable insights into the potential of digital technology in improving their operations, expanding their market reach, and optimizing their resources.
Below we highlight the learning experiences of three participants from the training sessions.
- Kanji Poultry Services
Kanji Poultry Services is a company owned by Izukanji Simbaya located in Kapiri-Mposhi, Zambia and specializes in rearing of Broilers and Village chickens.
As a farmer, Simbaya was looking to improve how his startup runs and manages processes through online tools. Through the EDGE activity, Simbaya now has the ability to use digital tools such as social media.
He highlights, “I have learned a lot of things that have allowed me to change my perspective on how to run a business using traditional and modern online tools thanks to USAID-EDGE and BongoHive. I am now able to use social media platforms to advertise my business with a larger community extending beyond my geographical location.”
He adds that the project has expanded his network to leading industry experts and investors which has allowed him to secure further funding to expand his services.
‘’Last year l participated in the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) and was privileged to be among the few to receive $5000 seed capita. I must say that the training l underwent with USAID EDGE Project played a big role especially when it came to having a better understanding of my business digital marketing strategy. The money was disbursed in May this year which will go into expanding our poultry project by venturing into layers.’’
- Nature’s Kiss Cosmetics
“There is power in visibility”, says Betty Chilonge, owner of Nature’s Kiss Cosmetics, a farming business that creates cosmetic products through the use of natural resources located in Chilanga District. Betty participated in the EDGE project with the aim of learning how to manage the resources her business required to expand and develop a fan base on different social platforms.
She says, “I have been able to see the importance of having an online community and how it can help to grow my business thanks to the training programs. I have further learnt many techniques that help with content creation through the virtual classes BongoHive hosted and I am excited to implement these into my business.”
- C&S AGRO
C&S Agro is a company located in Chibombo district dealing in the supply of agricultural and farming inputs to its local community.
The founder, Salima Lungu says she took part in the program looking to develop her capacity-building skills. She revealed that being a part of USAID’s Enterprise Development and Growth Enhanced Activity has helped her expand her knowledge of digital marketing in the agricultural space and she has since been linked to other institutions through the use of social media platforms hence expanding her reach.
“This project has taught me how to manage my business more efficiently and effectively and linked me to suppliers of agricultural products that will go a long way in my community,” she said. Any person that is looking to expand on their knowledge of technology and build a community with people will do well to take part in this initiative.’’
With the knowledge acquired on online marketing, it can safely be concluded that participants of the EDGE project will continue to successfully tap into new markets beyond their immediate localities through digital training sessions. With over 72 SMEs having been already trained to adopt digital tools to streamline processes, reduce manual tasks, and increase overall productivity, the Zambian agricultural sector stands to benefit significantly from capacity building.
As BongoHive, we are greatly elated to partner with USAID and to play a role in helping SMEs in rural parts of Zambia solve digital accessibility challenges and increase visibility for their products and services as a means to grow their market reach and revenue stream.