Global business consultancy Challenges Group launches Enterprise Resilience Programme

Support for SMEs as Challenges Group launches Enterprise Resilience Programme

The Challenges Group has supported the growth of thousands of SMEs in developed and developing markets over the past 20 years. Now our global team of business consultants are using that same expertise to support the resilience, re-calibration and recovery of SMEs during the global economic crisis caused by COVID-19.

Challenges is now delivering resilience business support to enterprises affected by the Corona virus and the global economic slowdown.

In the first instance, we will deploy a robust diagnostic tool to analyse the enterprise, providing a rapid and in-depth market and operations investigation that will enable SMEs to carry out information-based decisions to respond, recover and reposition from COVID-19.

Looking at the enterprise’s current market, we work with the business to understand the risk and opportunities attached to current customers and supply chains, as well as HR concerns in staffing and more. Our commercial experts and consultants will co-create with the business owner the crucial next steps and recommendations to help them become resilient, protecting jobs and income.

The diagnostic process will take around four to six weeks. Initially, the in-country teams will conduct rapid information gathering within the first fortnight. Our support team of technical and commercial experts will then analyse the information and identify possible strategies, which will be presented back to the senior management team with actions then agreed. Challenges will remain available to offer ongoing implementation support.

The service is offered with no upfront payment attached. Instead, Challenges is offering a fixed fee repayment package of 24 months for the first phase to essential businesses and discount offered to those who can pay quicker than this period.

Partners and interested businesses can visit our website, also follow us on Twitter, @challengesgroup for regular updates.

Country specific emails can directly be sent to our sites across Africa or the UK headquarters;

Contact Details:

admin@thechallengesgroup.com

ghana@thechallengesgroup.com

malawi@thechallengesgroup.com

rwanda@thechallengesgroup.com

uganda@thechallengesgroup.com

zambia@thechallengesgroup.com

 

Twitter: @challengesgroup

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Challenges consultants deliver enterprise training to 170 agribusinesses

Challenges Group Musika agribusiness training

Challenges Zambia has completed a far-reaching training programme involving 170 agribusinesses in seven districts across the country’s Western, Central and Copperbelt provinces. During the eight-month project, Challenges’ consultants travelled a total of 18,700km!

Challenges Zambia undertook the Agribusiness Accelerate Initiative (AAI) project in collaboration with the agri-development agency Musika, a Zambian non-profit focused on stimulating private investment in the country’s agricultural market, specifically agribusinesses and smallholder and emerging farmers.

Challenges Musika agribusiness training

Challenges delivers agribusiness training.

The project, which also involved a number of other public and private organisations, was focused on building the capacity of the small and medium rural agribusinesses that are critical to the expansion of the agricultural sector.

Over the eight month period Challenges consultants visited businesses in Kaoma, Mongu, Kitwe, Kabwe, Kapiri Mposhi and Mumbwa districts.

Key to Challenges’ philosophy is enabling enterprise leaders to acquire an in-depth knowledge about financial management in order to better ensure the success of their business. As part of AAI, participating smallholders and agribusiness personnel were trained in financial planning, profit and loss, budgeting, cash handling, accounting systems, balance sheets and cash flow statements, risk management, and raising finances.

The training was delivered by way of tasks during group work as well as roleplay, and were aimed at upskilling small agribusiness owners in goal-setting, customer gaps, market analysis and marketing plans, competitor analysis and various problem-solving tools.

The training also included digital marketing, financial management, risk management, competitor analysis, and strategies to achieve all-year-round business. One aspect of this was a course in Social Media for Business in which participants were taught how to effectively conduct business and communications on social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, among others.

During the training sessions, Challenges consultants identified fast learners whom they enabled to support other participants through peer-to-peer learning, a key element of Challenges’ approach to management and leadership training. One issue they faced, however, was language. Zambia has more than 40 languages spoken across the country and much of the Challenges’ training content was translated to cater for local audiences.

Market linkages

The Musika project has also provided small business within the AAI with opportunities for market linkages. These linkages were between small business partners and companies such as seed and fertilizer businesses, aggregators of groundnut and soya beans, financial institutions such as Zanaco and Agora, as well as businesses such as mobile money agencies and solar power companies. One of the aims of this was to enable agribusinesses to diversify their seasonal offering and obtain year-round commercial opportunities. On top of the move to grow market linkages, the trainings enabled many of the participating businesses to deliver a better service to their smallholder customers, clients and suppliers, as well as the larger agribusinesses with which they were engaged.

Following the rollout of the AAI programme and associated training, the range of agribusinesses and smallerholders now have a better understanding on how to manage their businesses and are planning on implementing the rest of the lessons by the end of their farming season this spring. Key to this will be managing cashflow in order to maximise profits they can invest in other businesses while also planning ahead for the next farming season.

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Progress for social enterprise Lilypads in Zambia after Challenges research

Lilypads Zambia Challenges Group

Lilypads is a Scotland-based social enterprise that seeks to address period poverty. As part of Challenges’ Access Africa Programme, Lilypads had engaged our Accra team to undertake a piece of consumer market research in Ghana and Zambia. This research targeted women and girls of menstruating age, and asked them about their requirements in regards to sanitary pads; whether they would be willing to use reusable pads; and their feelings towards ecofriendly sanitary pads, including how much they would be willing to pay.

Challenges identified a clear market opportunity for Lilypads, and its product and business model.

Lilypads ChallengesFollowing this market research, Challenges then looked at the practicalities of establishing a production and distribution base in a number of different locations, including Zambia. The legalities of producing pads locally, such as the requirements for establishing a factory that produces and distributes sanitary pads, was a key consideration. Costs, employment opportunities and future forecasts were also major factors.

Subsequently, Challenges Zambia engaged both the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS) for the standards required for sanitary towels; and the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) as to the legal requirements to establish Lilypads as a company in Zambia that would produce ecofriendly sanitary towels.

Challenges also engaged with a number of potential partners, identifying the One Planet Café Zambia, a business in South Luangwa that produces and exports banana paper branded One Planet Paper. This sustainability focused social business was receptive to partnering with Lilypads to produce ecofriendly sanitary pads.

Challenges is now working to raise capital on behalf of Lilypads in order to run a pilot in Zambia.


The Access Africa Programme

The Access Africa Programme enables Scottish social enterprises and social entrepreneurs to explore and expand into African markets. It provides market research and business development support, funded by the Scottish Government, to enterprises and individuals who have an idea, product, service or model that could make a real impact in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

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Challenges works with arts therapy charity amid plans for Zambia launch

Zambian Therapeutic Arts business training

Zambian Therapeutic Arts was set up by retired psychologists and art therapy practitioners in Scotland. They have, over a number of years, trained eight Zambians on the delivery of art therapy-based counselling, as well as training others to deliver that counselling. These Zambians came from a range of professions (teacher, neuroscientist, private psychiatrist, university lecturer in medicine, physiotherapist, etc) with a unifying passion for mental health, and better outcomes for patients.

With a view to empowering the local trainers, and create a more sustainable entity in Zambia, Challenges Catalyst was approached to give guidance to ZTA on how to set up a social enterprise. In discussion, and with involvement from Challenges Zambia, it was proposed that a first step would be a short training engagement to assess the needs of the trainers, give some basic theory around business and operational set up, and finally allow a platform for brainstorming on how it might work. Content was taken from our CMI learning and development material, while also incorporating additional activities and interactive discussions.

Participation in the sessions was really good, and the Challenges staff saw a strong level of commitment, passion, creativity, industry specific knowledge and networks, and overall close bond between the team members.

Following the sessions, Challenges has recommended involving ZTA in the Access Africa Programme in the early part of 2020 to undertake a research into which legal entity would be the best option moving forward (with options including social enterprise, NGO, private business, not for profit, etc).

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Challenges Zambia performs operational set-up for First Aid Africa

First Aid Africa partners with Challenges Zambia

First Aid Africa Challenges Zambia

Challenges’ Access Africa Programme is a pioneering initiative that aims to encourage social enterprises to expand their impact to emerging economies. After a pilot in 2018, Challenges has rolled the project out to involve additional social businesses in areas such as healthcare and clean tech. 

In 2018 as part of the AAP pilot, Challenges Zambia played a critical role in registering First Aid Africa’s Zambian arm. This followed an extensive piece of market analysis and business diagnostic to ascertain the opportunity facing First Aid Africa. Challenges’ consultants also looked at the barriers facing market entry. 

First Aid Africa is a social enterprise that works in both urban and rural areas in several African nations. Its mission is to provide sustainable equipment and education in first aid to emergency first responders. Central to the organisation is the belief that “a small amount of medical knowledge and equipment” can make a big difference. 

Delivering professional first aid training to communities across the continent, the majority of FAA’s courses are provided free of charge for at-risk groups. For companies and larger organisations, FAA charge a fee that enables the sustainability of its community work. 

Following the legal incorporation of First Aid Africa Zambia Ltd in 2018, Challenges’ Lusaka team worked closely with FAAZL to support its market entry in Zambia, a process that involved specific deliverables including business model analysis, business registration, network support and staff recruitment. 

First Aid Africa continues to expand

Since Challenges’ work with FAAZL, the emergency healthcare organisation has continued to grow and expand its products and service offerings in the Zambian market. It has since won contracts with Zambia’s Ministry of Health and the Zambia Police Service among other institutions. 

Sam Abrahams, chief executive of First Aid Africa, said: “We wanted to take our first aid training programme to Zambia, but we lacked the logistical support we had in other African countries. By way of the Access Africa Programme, we went from having zero presence in Zambia to operating a functioning office in a matter of weeks, enabling us to take our training and services to remote or isolated communities.” 

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Sales and jobs growth at Kachema Meat after enterprise analysis by Challenges Zambia

Kachema Meat Shop Challenges Zambia Enterprise Analysis

In 2018, business consultants from Challenges Zambia were engaged by Kachema Meat Supplies Ltd, one of the country’s leading integrated meat companies to undergo an in-depth enterprise analysis. 

This was part of the business linkages programme, a DFID-funded project in partnership with Private Enterprise Programme Zambia (PEPZ), to support growth enterprises in Zambia. 

The 360enterprise diagnostic involved a robust investigation and assessment of Kachema Meatbusiness operations, sales and marketing, and financials. This was achieved by using a range of Challenges diagnostic tools including questionnaires, interviews, observations and feedback from consumers and retailers. 

Kachema Meat Challenges Zambia Enterprise AnalysisBuilding on a legacy of sustained growth and a turnover of $(US) 10 million a yearKachema management clearly understood the importance of product quality and branding, and had a history of investing in these areas.  

Launched as a meat wholesaler in 2000 catering to retailers in the Copperbelt, in 2003 Kachema Meat Supplies moved to Lusaka and began opening retail outlets selling direct to the public. With a staff of about 120, it now has some 14 retail outlets, contributing significantly to the growth on the business over the past three years. 

Engaging Challenges, Kachema sought an external assessment of its product quality and branding, as well as an evaluation of:  

  • Distribution packagingpackaging systems, and audit producer  
  • Preservation packagingincluding thermoformed packaging to improve shelf life  
  • And the branding/communication messaging on the packaging 

Challenges was also invited to develop proposals for enhanced product appearance in relation to the cost of packaging. 

With a wide network of business associates built up over its 20 years of global operations, Challenges also engaged one of its consultants with a background in the meat processing industry. 

Implementing Challenges Recommendation

Combined with the Zambia team’s findings, the consultant’s final report made recommendations that, upon implementation by Kachema, were seen to coincide with the growth of sales of pre-packed and vacuumed items into new retail channels, such as Shopritethe largest retail store in Zambia.  

The recommendations also resulted in the adaptation of communication packaging, as well as increasing knowledge about vacuum packing cold meats and leakage checks. The latter has resulted in the reduction of blown offs (vacuum packed units that were not properly sealed). In addition, a number of operational bottlenecks were identified and addressed. 

Upon completion of the analysis of Kachema, Challenges Zambia subsequently followed up with an evaluation of the business. It found that both Kachema’s margins and profit had increased as a result of implementations recommended following Challenges’ analysis. It also found that sales volumes of Kachema’s processed meats increased by 124%, while the cost of damaged or spoiled products fell from 8% to 5%. Overall, the products’ shelf life increased by 3% 

Challenges intervention also coincided with increased job creation as production was stepped up to meet demand due to increased sales, particularly sales of processed meats in supermarkets. 

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Lilypads and Challenges collaborate to help end period poverty

Lilypads Zambia Challenges Group

Lilypads is a social enterprise committed to improving girls’ access to sanitary products and ending period poverty. The Challenges team in Zambia is working with the business to better provide accessible and affordable menstrual health products for women and girls.

As part of our Access Africa Programme, we are assessing demand for Lilypads’ eco-friendly sanitary pads within Lilypad’s target market. Challenges consultants are also scoping the feasibility of a local manufacturing centre in Zambia, which would enable Lilypads to expand its reach and impact.

Meanwhile, Challenges’ Team Ghana is supporting Lilypads to identify a local manufacturing and distribution partner.

Lilypads’ chief exective Alison Woods said: “Working with Challenges has been a brilliant opportunity. They provided thorough market research and recommendations to enable us to evaluate what the best next step is for Lilypads.”

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Small businesses praise Challenges Zambia after training in financial management and leadership

Musika Zambia Challenges Group

Challenges Zambia has been working with the Zambian non-profit company, Musika, as part of our goal to achieve poverty reduction by ensuring agricultural markets work for all stakeholders, in particular Zambia’s rural poor. Musika is supported by the Swedish Embassy in Zambia, the Norwegian Government’s NORAD and IRISH AID, which seeks to stimulate private investment in the agricultural market and has a particular focus on the smallholder and emerging farmer sectors.

Musika’s approach to reducing poverty and creating wealth in rural Zambia involves stimulating the development of a supportive market environment that provides long-term and sustainable opportunities for farmers to invest in their own production and to use the markets to graduate out of poverty.

On the back of a survey of the sector, Musika identified gaps in financial management and leadership skills among small rural agribusinesses, aggregators and veterinary service providers, and decided upon a programme of training in financial management and leadership in order to build capacity within the sector.

Following a bidding process, Challenges was appointed to deliver a series of training sessions to small business holders in the Copperbelt and Central provinces of Zambia.

One of the key modules covered was “Meeting Stakeholder and Quality Needs”. As part of the training Challenges consultants took the participants through a series of strategic business activities and strategic assessments. These included: Understanding your Stakeholders’ Needs; Stakeholder Analysis; SMART Objectives; SWOT/PEST analysis; and Porter’s Five Forces.

  • SMART is a mnemonic used to describe the criteria for the setting of objectives. It stands for: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant; Time-bound.
  • SWOT analysis is a strategic tool for an individual or organisation to measure its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
  • PEST analysis is a framework of macro-environmental factors (Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological) to be considered while undertaking a larger strategic analysis of a business or market research.
  • Porter’s Five Forces is a tool individuals and businesses can use to assess competition. They are: Threat of new entrants; Threat of substitutes; Bargaining power of customers; Bargaining power of suppliers; and Competitive rivalry.

Results of Challenges Zambia training

The training comprised of group activities that encouraged discussions and debates from all learners, each of whom was encouraged to use their own business experience as case studies. This was crucial as participants were able to reflect on past experiences (both successes and failures!), and consider how circumstances might be different should they experience the same in the future.

A total of 64 participants across three towns in Zambia – Kapiri Mponshi and Kabwe in Central Province and Kitwe in Copperbelt Province – took part in the training. The majority of participants did not know each other, and the interactive training created a lively environment that enabled participants to feel comfortable and to interact with both the trainers and participants.

All participants at each of the three sites received a days’ training in the following topics: SWOT analysis; PESTEL analysis; Stakeholder analysis; Stakeholder interest matrix; Empathy map; and setting SMART objectives.

Participants were excited to learn how to apply the above tools in their everyday business decisions. Examples used during the training helped them realise how their businesses would benefit from this newly acquired knowledge.

As the graphs and feedback results below show, this was a training session that was warmly received by its participants. We will in due course report

on the long-term impact on the businesses and the people who undertook the training.

Musika trainees’ comments on the Challenges Zambia Business Development training

Our key takeaway from this event:
“I have learnt the importance of management of clients, good relationship with stakeholders and customers, SWOT & PESTEL analysis for my business”
Mwape Chanda
Kitwe participant

“Before the training, I did not have knowledge on how to plan in business for it to be managed well. I can now confidently plan for my business to avoid losses.”
Benjamin Chaaba
Kapiri Mponshi Participant

Our views on the different aspects of the training:
“We all participated in the training, it kept us awake. Please continue with this type of training”
Margaret Chimanga
Kabwe Participant

“The training was good and examples were clear and time manageable. The training should continue to teach business people”
Jason Ngulukila
Kapiri Mponshi Participant

Our thoughts regarding the sessions or overall agenda:
“I very much enjoyed the PESTLE and SWOT analysis sessions as we used personal business examples and experiences to learn.”
Innocent Phiri
Kitwe Participant

“Very interesting and easy to grasp, it was very educative we look forward to more trainings delivered in this manner.”
David Mweo Musonda
Kabwe Participant

Our overall feedback for the event?
“The training was different from the usual trainings we attend where we just listen and not actively participate. It was great.”
Jess Phiri
Kapiri Mponshi Participant

“The trainers interacted well with us, it was a great training.”
Julius Chisenga
Kitwe Participant


Feedback from Challenges Zambia training

 

Graph 1 - Challenges Zambia Musika Case Study

 


Graph 2 - Challenges Zambia Musika Case Study

Graph 3 - Musika Case Study Challenges Zambia


Graph 4 - Musika Case Study Challenges Zambia


Graph 5 - Musika Case Study Challenges Zambia


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Pioneering research prompts banking giant Prudential to develop bespoke insurance products for Zambia’s entrepreneurs

Prudential Zambia Challenges Group

The Challenges team in Zambia has undertaken a ground-breaking assessment of 80 small and medium enterprises across 18 sectors to understand their needs as part of an innovative partnership with global insurance giant Prudential and Zambian enterprise agency PEPZ. Their findings have helped Prudential shape a new range of financial product and services geared towards SMEs, while also deconstructing some of the negative myths around insurance.

Challenges is committed to supporting business and helping them grow, through implementing good operational and business practice, and encouraging the development of SME-centred products and services. We know that as businesses grow, everyone benefits through increased earnings and stable jobs leading to growth in the wider economy.

One of the issues sometimes overlooked by entrepreneurs and small business owners is life insurance, an area often clouded by myth and misinformation.

Aware of the potential to support Zambia’s SMEs and the need to generate greater awareness of its products, the global insurance giant Prudential partnered with the Challenges team in Zambia, tapping into their expert knowledge of the SME landscape and its extensive network of contacts and businesses. Zambian enterprise agency PEPZ also supported the project, which aimed to deliver a much-needed life insurance product to small business owners; people who were all too often excluded from traditional products and who, according to our findings, felt excluded from such offerings or felt they didn’t apply to them.

Insurance in Zambia

Market penetration for life insurance in Zambia is minuscule; for the past few years, it’s sat at less than 1% of a population of some 17 million people. But it’s not just life insurance; insurance products as a whole are only activated up by about 5% of the population.

Across many business owners, we found that there was a widespread belief that insurance was expensive, sometimes prohibitively so, while many people considered it an unnecessary cost, rather than an important asset to their business.

Aware of these issues, Prudential sought to design a product that catered to SMEs and entrepreneurs, leading to the PRU SMART Entrepreneur insurance, the first of its kind in Southern Africa.

The PRU SMART Entrepreneur is designed to provide Group Life Assurance Cover to small businesses, who, because of the unstructured nature of SME and entrepreneurs’ operations and lack of formal salaries, make them unattractive for conventional Group Life cover. The new Prudential product was designed specifically for the SME and entrepreneur, with the aim of increasing the financial inclusion of these businesses. The research undertaken by Challenges consultants was integral to the development of this innovative insurance product.

Prior to its launch, Prudential wanted to assess the product design and its planned distribution to SMEs and entrepreneurs, commissioning the Challenges team to undertake a far-reaching and in-depth market research project in Lusaka and in Zambia’s Copperbelt provinces. The research had two aims: to test Prudential’s own assumptions, and to ensure maximise the customer value that Prudential could deliver with the product, bringing greater benefit to the business people.

The Challenges researchers found that businesses are willing to pay more if they think the product gives them a truly special and significant value, and if the product is presented to them in just the right way.

The team also found that the majority of SMEs (62%) had set aside savings for when unexpected events that could affect their business, such as death, disability and critical illnesses.

Our analysis showed there was significant potential for the Prudential product, and following the research, we recommended a number of changes to the PRU SMART product. We also found that although there was clearly a market for this product, customer education and intelligent marketing would be invaluable to help the potential customers among Zambia’s SME community understand and appreciate the PRU SMART insurance. 

Key findings: 

  • Majority of SME-owners prepared for unexpected events, relying on savings, family, etc
  • Research spanned 79 SMEs across 18 sectors, ranging from renewables and health to tourism and transport.
  • Almost half of SMEs had some form of motor insurance, while nearly one in three had fire/theft insurance.
  • About one in six SMEs had no insurance whatsoever.

Two-thirds of SMEs agreed the PRU SMART product met their needs. Only 5% said it didn’t.

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