One of the identified obstacles to enterprise development in developing markets is the lack of adequate access to business development services. Due to the disconnectedness of these markets, business associations and incubators flounder in bridging the gap between SMEs and providers of quality services. This gap, accompanied by the unavailability of results-oriented technical assistance tools, leave SMEs to struggle with minimal resources for growth.
To assist more than 250,000 enterprises in the markets it serves, Leaders International developed its own solution BOOST, an online voucher system for managing firm-level technical assistance. It aims at meeting the needs of SMEs by increasing their productivity and market share. It helps them build market linkages up the value chain and address the internal factors that constrain the sustainability of their relationships with new markets.
As a technical assistance solution, it allows SMEs to receive world-class services from verified and vetted service providers. Such a mechanism encourages equal opportunities, fair competition, transparency, and compliance. Discounts can also be given to SMEs through the system when they meet specific social objectives such as employment of people with disabilities, refugees, and so on. Another main component of the solution is increasing the availability of equity and debt financing for target enterprises, who can now get access to financial advisory services, investment opportunities, and financing instruments through the system.
On one single platform, BOOST offers its users a database that stores past and current information of SME support programmes, a roaster of qualified experts and service providers, an M&E tool to inform decisions, easy access to management tools, compliance, and progress, and an extensive network of professionals and investors to enable market linkages and increase exports.
Through these features, Leaders International and its partners in JADE project were able to select and diagnose dozens of SMEs from different sectors, then match them with a pool of verified service providers through an online bidding system; while monitoring the overall progress of the project.
Leaders International provides a holistic approach to meet various institutional needs across all sectors. The provision of support through the system has proven to lower administration costs while ensuring the highest standards of transparency and compliance for all stakeholders. In the last two years, $5 million worth of firm-level assistance was funded through BOOST. It brought more than 300 enterprises,150 service providers, and five partners on one single platform, and for one common goal: subsidising business development services to enhance the ability of enterprises to grow and flourish.