By Antony Mutunga
After more than 12 months of pandemic uncertainty, many sectors in Africa have entered a state of normalization. From the financial industry to the agricultural sector, businesses have started their return to normalcy. The situation is the same for the construction and manufacturing sector, which, according to a survey conducted by Mastercard Middle East and Africa (MEA), are seen as the sectors with the best forecasts for recovery.
According to the survey conducted between March and April 2021, 74 percent of SMEs in the construction and manufacturing sectors are optimistic about the next 12 months. The SMEs project that they will be able to break even or increase their revenues in the period. Confidence levels were exceptionally high among retail businesses, followed by food, beverage, and entertainment.
The SMEs that took part in the survey highlighted that more accessible access to credit (56 percent), upskilling staff (56 percent), as well as better data and insights (52 percent) were the top drivers of growth, with SMEs needing all the support they can get to go digital to expand and increase revenue. SMEs have started seeing the importance of going digital, and they now understand the benefits of a cash-free economy. Almost half of the over 1500 SMEs surveyed believe that the ease of not processing cash is the biggest merit of going digital, while 47 percent believe it is the ease and convenience of payment of suppliers and employees.
Going digital remains one of the main focuses for Mastercard, which works closely with the government, financial organizations, and the wider business community to create opportunities for the small business sector.
“As manufacturing and construction businesses continue to build back better through a combination of digital transformation and people development, they are also encouraging other SMEs in this sector. At Mastercard, we look forward to a seamless continuation of supporting the SME ecosystem, providing the payments technology infrastructure and wider business solutions that will spur wide, inclusive growth of the digital economy,” said Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard.
However, despite confidence levels being high, SMEs were still concerned about whether they could keep their businesses afloat. According to the survey, 60 percent of SMEs identified the rising cost of doing business as a major concern over the next year, while 47 percent cited access to capital. On the other hand, in terms of operations, maintaining the current staff level was the biggest concern according to 47 percent. Other problems included finding the right talent for the new needs (39 percent), mental and physical well-being (39 percent) as well as training and upskilling staff (44 percent).