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How to Celebrate MSME Day 2021 After a Challenging Year

27th June 2021

As a small business owner thinking about the challenges of this year’s Covid lockdowns, it may be hard to find much to celebrate. The pandemic suffocated opportunity, growth, and livelihoods for many entrepreneurs and businesses around the world, including Africa. 

Yet today, on Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day 2021, there is  much to be thankful for because of what MSMEs gave the world during the last year – they inspired us with their hope, adaptability and delivery, regardless of the challenges. More importantly, the story isn’t over – resilient and skilled MSMEs can and will play an important part in the economic recovery. 

Understanding the Crisis

In the early months of the pandemic, we at the African Management Institute (AMI) released the results of a survey with thousands of participants of our Business Survival Bootcamps (May 2020) revealing that 87% of entrepreneurs across Africa were worried about surviving the effects of the pandemic, with 67% of the surveyed stating that they were already getting hard hit by the lockdown measures experienced across the continent. By July 2020 the International Trade Centre (ITC)’s SME Competitive Outlook 2020 reported results of a survey on COVID-19’s impact among businesses in 136 countries, showing just how deep the crisis already was. 

Key statistics from ITC’s report indicated that going into Covid, MSMEs had lower “resilience index” scores than their larger counterparts and were therefore more likely to be hit harder. Those who were able to be more resilient to the “shocks”, by developing key business fundamentals and adapting, increased their chances of survival as a business.

Hope Kept The Lights On, Skill Kept The Doors Open

When Covid hit in March of last year, our programmes at AMI shifted from a blended model to fully virtual, and focused on supporting as many MSMEs as possible, leveraging our existing virtual engagement experience and robust online learning platform and content. We focused on supporting business owners not just to thrive, but to survive and keep their doors open. By mid-2020 we were calling for businesses to build their resilience and save their businesses – “Hope kept the lights on, skill will keep the doors open”, we told them in our ad campaigns.  

We’ve been inspired beyond expectations as everyone we’ve worked with, from gig workers to medium-sized businesses, have dug deep to adapt, retool and find new revenue opportunities. We were amazed to see 100% survival rates among those on our structured business resilience and growth programmes (on a 78% response rate).

AMI’s own Covid-inspired Thrive Network has grown to tens of thousands of self-described “Thrivers” from over 40 cuntries across Africa, coming together to support each other and build wider networks across the continent. We’re proud that 91% of the hundreds of businesses who joined our new Survive to Thrive business growth programme, designed in response to the pandemic, say their businesses are stronger as a result. 

[More data about our impact will be available this week when we release our full AMI 2020 Impact Report – sign up here to receive a copy.]

Yet, our work in supporting African businesses to build resilience  isn’t done. Today, second and third waves are rising up across the continent and the prospect of more lockdowns and economic hardship is real. With MSMEs representing 80% of the economy in many African countries, the survival of MSMEs will be essential fuel for driving Africa’s economic recovery.

In Rwanda for example, through the support of Mastercard Foundation’s COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program, AMI is supporting 2,500 MSMEs with our Business Survival Bootcamps and business growth programmes. We’re already hearing from Rwandan MSME’s about the difference the Kinyarwanda language programme is making in their businesses (see video above).

That’s why AMI will be celebrating #MSMEDay21 all week. We’ll be sharing resources and focusing on the stories of resilience and hope from ambitious businesses and entrepreneurs we’ve worked with.


Do you want to celebrate #MSMEDay21 with us? Here are a few actions you can take:

  • If you are the owner of an MSME anywhere in Africa learn more about our Survive to Thrive programme to build your business’ resilience through fundamental business skills.
  • If you’re a former participant or current AMI participant in one of our programmes, reach out to three other entrepreneurs to share this article with them about why it’s so important to build resilience and skills for their businesses. 
  • If you are an ambitious African entrepreneurjoin our free Thrive Network.
  • If you’re an organisation or institution that wants to scale your impact and reach more MSMEs, contact our partnerships team at andrea@africanmanagers.org
  • Follow #MSMEDay21 on social media and learn more about this year’s theme MSMEs: Key to an inclusive and sustainable recovery

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