Measuring African MSMEs' Resilience

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In the past weeks, two organizations have released notable survey findings showing how small businesses in the Middle East and Africa are faring as we emerge (however tentatively) from the global pandemic.

Generally, the picture gleaned from the two surveys is cautious optimism. Conditions are improving, but omicron was at best a nasty speed bump on the road to recovery. Without question, the pandemic inflicted real damage and businesses continue to struggle with demand, cash flow, access to capital, and other challenges.

One survey comes from the global social media giant Facebook, which recently released its new Global State of Small Business Report. The latest report reflects data collected in January 2022. The Facebook survey includes a large sample from countries in the Middle East and Africa.

The other comes from Africa 118, a Nairobi-based digital marketing platform, which, along with survey platform GeoPoll, produced the Africa MSME Pulse Survey, which surveyed 312 MSMEs in South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya in December 2021.

BigFive Digital produced a webinar earlier this month offering an overview of the MSME Pulse research.

We will avoid comparing the two surveys directly since they use different methodologies and sample sizes. Each does offer insights into the current state of small businesses in the region in the early (let’s hope) post-pandemic period.

Instead, we will share the highlights from each survey. And we include links to each report so dig further on your own if you choose.

The Africa MSME Pulse Survey

The Africa MSME Pulse sought answers to a handful of key questions. These include, among others, how MSMEs were impacted by the pandemic, how optimistic they are about the future, and the role digital marketing and technology play in their current and future business plans.

The bottom line is that MSMEs were battered but not defeated by the pandemic. And there has been a fundamental shift in the role technology plays in their business operations.

For example, three-quarters of MSMEs said Covid had a negative impact on their business. Kenya was highest at 81% and South Africa lowest at 70% (still very high).

And 57% of those surveyed said they had to let staff go or cut salaries over the past two years. And it doesn’t appear that MSMEs are going to bring those employees back any time soon, as the following chart shows. The MSME employment outlook appears to be the brightest in Nigeria.

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