Cotonou, February 26, 2008—IFC,
a member of the World Bank Group, and H&C Business Technologies, a
leading business service provider in West Africa, today launched an SME
Toolkit Web site for Benin (www.africa.smetoolkit.org). This free online
business management resource will provide local small businesses with access
to training and information. It will also address some of the major
problems facing small business owners, including drafting a business plan;
accessing legal, accounting, and financial advice and market information;
and tackling other issues related to managing a business.
“Micro, small, and medium enterprises are important channels for addressing
job creation and economic growth, but they need the tools and information
to compete. Initiatives like the SME Toolkit can help bridge the information
gap for small businesses, while promoting information technology literacy,”
said Hamziz Oceni, National Coordinator of Benin’s Private Sector Promotion
IFC distributes the SME Toolkit in several countries by partnering with
local organizations that translate the product into local languages and
offer relevant content in areas such as business regulations, sources of
financing, and local business directories. IFC’s partner in Benin
is H&C Business Technologies.
“The Benin SME Toolkit is the most comprehensive, free online resource
for doing business in the country. It will provide a one-stop source of
information for local businesses, saving them time and money. We
are delighted to partner with IFC to create more opportunities for growth
and expansion for our small business clients,” said Hermann Cakpo, Chief
Executive Officer, H&C Business Technologies.
Internet usage per 1,000 residents in Benin is twice the African average,
and this number continues to grow rapidly. Research shows that between
2000 and 2007, the number of Internet users grew by more than 4,000 percent.
As Internet use accelerates, so will the number of potential entrepreneurs
who will be able to access this free advice on how to start and run a business.
For those without regular or reliable Internet connections, the SME Toolkit
can also be run on CD-ROMs. Users can also register for in-person,
computer-based workshops that are taught by professional trainers.
“IFC promotes the SME Toolkit to support the growth and management of
small businesses by providing them with access to information and technology.
We welcome this partnership with H&C, a dynamic information company
in West Africa that is well-positioned to support SMEs in their development,”
said Laurence Carter, IFC Director for Small and Medium Enterprises.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, fosters sustainable economic growth
in developing countries by financing private sector investment, mobilizing
private capital in local and international financial markets, and providing
advisory and risk mitigation services to businesses and governments. IFC’s
vision is that people should have the opportunity to escape poverty and
improve their lives. In FY07, IFC committed $8.2 billion and mobilized
an additional $3.9 billion through syndications and structured finance
for 299 investments in 69 developing countries. IFC also provided advisory
services in 97 countries. For more information, visit www.ifc.org.
About H&C Business Technologies
Founded in 2003, H&C Business Technologies is a West Africa-based business
services provider. The company promotes better management practices in
the region by developing and providing business tools and solutions for
starting and growing small and medium enterprises. Its products and services
range from software, training, and surveys, to Web development and promotion
services. The company serves about 1,500 small businesses and has offices
in Benin and Senegal. For more information, visit impulsiondespme.com/produit.php.
IFC launched the SME Toolkit in 2002.
In Africa, the network covers Algeria, Benin, Kenya, Madagascar,
Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia. Plans are underway to add nine
other country sites, including Ghana and Senegal, which will launch their
sites before the end of the year.
In 2006, IFC partnered with IBM to strengthen
and expand the toolkit’s capabilities. IBM has dedicated more than
$2 million to transform and rebuild the product on an innovative and open-source
platform. The specially designed, free tools include:
-An online calculator that helps small
businesses determine if they qualify for financing
-Software to help build Web sites
-Simple questionnaires to help owners
decide on issues affecting their businesses
-Community tools such as online conferencing,
blogs, and group calendars
-A multilingual business directory to
help small businesses link globally
The SME Toolkit is available in 28 countries
and in 15 languages throughout the developing world. In many of these markets,
there are no other comparable online support resources for small businesses
in the local language. The toolkit receives nearly 3 million visits
every year. For more information, visit www.africa.smetoolkit.org.