What has been the impact of your mobile app launched over two years ago?
STELLA SATA RUKAYI In 2015, we launched the Plan Store mobile app. The app made it easy for entrepreneurs to plan ahead, asking critical business questions and helping them pitch their idea to investors with realistic numbers. The development of this app was partially funded by a grant from UKAid through its implementing partners PEP-Z. The app has been downloaded and used by over 400 SMEs across the country. It has been an effective tool for entrepreneurs to receive intelligent business advice on pricing and many other excellent tips on planning their businesses. We have also helped over 100 entrepreneurs to create a comprehensive business plan or proposal following the use of the mobile app.
Can you elaborate on your program of business and entrepreneurship trainings for informal businesses?
SIMBA RUKAYI Following the success of the mobile app and our ability to give business development services to entrepreneurs, we wanted to extend our services to marginalized entrepreneurs who could not afford to pay for our services. We partnered The Stella Project, a not-for-profit organization co-founded by Stella and David Nelson Bassey, and were able to conceptualize a business and entrepreneurship training (BET) project for marginalized entrepreneurs. Through the BET project, we provided action-oriented and practical business and entrepreneurship training to 40 marketeers (market stall owners). This program was supported by the US government through a partial grant from the US Embassy in Zambia as well as the Twaala Restaurant.
SSR The BET project first targeted the most marginalized entrepreneurs in Zambia: marketeers. They are at the bottom of the pyramid of entrepreneurs, yet are extremely important to the economy. We also had a deliberate 60% target bias to women and young people because women and youth often do not get opportunities to improve their knowledge. We further provided an aftercare mentoring and support system for up to 12 months for each of the trained marketeers. This includes assisting them with creating accounting and financial managements systems, savings groups as well as value addition strategies. Those that have smartphones or children with smartphones were also shown how to use the Plan Store app.
What opportunities are there for investing in business development services in Zambia?
SSR The number one opportunity is that Zambian entrepreneurs have embraced the power of entrepreneurship and want to learn more about how they can improve and develop their businesses. As a result, entrepreneurs are willing to pay for business development services and so organizations can tap into this huge untapped market.
What measures need to be taken to improve the current financing and banking systems for informal businesses in Zambia?
SR The current banking system does not make it easy for an informal business to open a bank account. The banks either ask for too many documents due to the new Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations, take too long to open the bank account, or have high fees or high opening balances. It is important to make opening a bank account both time efficient as well as financially friendly for informal businesses in order to avoid a situation where a business person keeps money in their shop or under their mattress.
SSR For example, marketeers may not be high earning individuals but they run a highly liquid cash based business and making it easier to open a bank account and to manage transactions would result in their cash being in circulation. Lending to informal businesses must be with the end game of allowing the informal business to grow. It is important for finance and microfinance institutions to be interested in the development of the business and not to only focus on receiving interest. If institutions train informal businesses in financial management, the loan would be put to good use and would improve the overall financial position of the business, making it easy for one to pay back.