LIWAY´s work in the micro and small enterprise (MSE) system focuses on reducing barriers to business entry and growth and stimulating innovation. With more than 15 interventions dedicated to these aims and multiple implementing partners, it´s important to create platforms to take stock of progress, learning, and challenges from the perspective of all stakeholders, including intended beneficiaries. This is what LIWAY did in early April through its stakeholder review and learning workshop, which included not only programme staff, implementing partners, and government stakeholders, but also 12 women and youth beneficiaries. The beneficiaries shared their stories of how the interventions have enabled their businesses, as well as highlighted ongoing challenges.
A young male named Eshetu highlighted how a new information service for MSEs has helped him and his wife expand their business and create opportunities for others. He explained:
¨I joined the KEFTA information portal immediately after starting my business, Kul Design, with my wife. We started having two machines, but with no business information or network. The information and business linkages have helped to expand our initial business and enter new businesses. We have also provided [subcontracting] opportunities to other fellow enterprises and employed more people.¨
Eshetu also noted that based on his experience, he convinced six fellow entrepreneurs to subscribe to access information on KEFTA.
Eshetu´s story demonstrates the potential multiplier effect of providing MSEs with access to relevant business information, including bids, input prices, and entrepreneurship skills. This was a key learning, particularly with respect to capturing this effect in monitoring and reporting. To date 3,640 women and youth business owners have access to information to improve business performance through LIWAY´s Access to Information for MSEs intervention in partnership with Ebiz Technology Solutions PLC.
Another young beneficiary, Weyneshet, talked about how a new digital marketing service for MSEs called HellooMarket has similarly enabled her to expand her business and provide opportunities for others. She explained:
¨I used to give my products to traders. They pay a low price and payment was delayed. Since I started selling through HellooMarket, I get the payment for each item sold and the offer is fair. I have expanded my production and provided wage employment for three more employees.¨
The Digital Marketing Service for MSEs intervention in partnership with BelCash Technology Solutions PLC and Addis Ababa Bureau of Labour, Enterprise, and Industrial Development (BoLEID) has provided increased visibility and market access to 1,224 MSEs to date.
Other beneficiaries talked about how LIWAY´s MSE interventions have not only enabled new sources of income, but also hope and a sense of empowerment.
Engeda is a young female beneficiary of LIWAY´s Outsourcing Sales for MSEs intervention in partnership with Muday Association and BoLEID. Through this intervention, a new outsourcing model is being piloted to create jobs and increase incomes for young and adult women as subcontracted producers of enjera. The intervention has enabled Engeda to become a self-employed member of an enjera making group business – providing her with a source of income and hope. As she explained:
¨Engaging in enjera making has become my main source of livelihood. I have had several life challenges and have now started seeing a bright future.¨
Another female beneficiary named Yelfeshiwa similarly highlighted how a LIWAY intervention has helped her financially and psychologically. Yelfeshiwa is a beneficiary of the Retail Trade Opportunities intervention implemented in partnership with WISE (Women in Self Employment) and WISE Union. The intervention aims to empower women through building business, financial, and life skills, as well as through access to loans to start retail shops. Yelfeshiwa explained:
¨I used to engage in trade during which I lost all the money and became dependent on the meagre income from my husband. The opportunity to engage with WISE provided me with skills and empowered me to stand again on my feet.¨
Access to finance was highlighted by the MSE participants as continuing to be one of the main constraints to growing their businesses. LIWAY is now working on an alternative financing model to address the root causes of the constraint such as collateral requirements.
The stakeholder review and learning workshop proved to be a useful platform to increase communication and sharing across all stakeholders. In addition to amplifying the voices of beneficiaries, it also enabled implementing partners to hear about and learn from other interventions, and renewed partners´ commitment to deliver results.
As Ebiz Co-Founder Ato Tewodros Mengistu commented in a post on LinkedIn about the event:
¨We must say that the workshop was a very encouraging experience and an inspiration to do more. The networking and experience sharing was invaluable… We will do our best to make the Access to Information intervention – available via kefta.2merkato.com – a success and sustainable.¨
LIWAY will continue to hold these valuable workshops on a quarterly basis and share key stories and learning as the programme progresses.