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  • Writer's pictureMarion Burchell

Empowering Small and Medium Enterprises: Navigating Challenges, Building Resilience

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of economies worldwide, driving innovation, creating jobs, and fostering economic growth. However, the past few years have brought unprecedented challenges, from global crises to supply chain disruptions, threatening the resilience of SMEs, particularly those owned by women and youth. As we mark International Small to Medium Business Enterprise Day, it's crucial to recognize the vital role SMEs play and the support they need to thrive in an ever-changing landscape.

The Resilience of SMEs Amidst Multiple Shocks:

SMEs have long been the backbone of the economy, but recent years have tested their resilience like never before. Multiple simultaneous shocks, including conflicts, pandemics, and geopolitical tensions, have disrupted the global working environment for entrepreneurs and SMEs. These challenges have exposed vulnerabilities in supply chains, exacerbated by rising inflation and supply chain disruptions, making it increasingly difficult for SMEs to operate and grow.

Among the most vulnerable are women- and youth-owned enterprises, which face additional barriers to accessing finance, capacity-building support, and global markets. Despite the increasing number of business formations by women and youth worldwide, many entrepreneurs struggle to overcome the challenges that stifle the growth of their businesses, often confining them to informality or necessity entrepreneurship.

Empowering Women and Youth Entrepreneurs:

To address these challenges and foster inclusive economic growth, policies must prioritize the development and entrepreneurship of women and youth. By strengthening capacities and providing targeted support, policymakers can lower barriers and create an enabling environment for SMEs owned by women and youth to thrive. This includes improving access to finance, capacity-building programs, partnership networks, and global markets.

Furthermore, supporting resilient supply chains is essential to ensuring the long-term viability of SMEs. Conflicts, disasters, and pandemics can disrupt supply chains, increasing costs and hindering transactions. Therefore, policymakers and businesses must collaborate to create economically viable, socially, and environmentally sustainable supply chains that benefit workers and the environment.

Making it Easier for SMEs to Do Business:

Streamlining processes and reducing barriers for SMEs to do business is critical for fostering growth and innovation. Azolla partnered with organizations such as the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) and local governments, to make a tangible impact on SMEs' success. This included reducing approval times, cutting costs, and creating a conducive environment for SMEs to set up, grow, or relocate their businesses.

International Small to Medium Business Enterprise Day serves as a reminder of the vital role SMEs play in driving economic prosperity and fostering inclusive growth. Despite facing numerous challenges, SMEs continue to demonstrate resilience and innovation in the face of adversity. By empowering women and youth entrepreneurs, strengthening supply chains, and reducing barriers to doing business, we can create a more equitable and sustainable future for all. Let us work together to support SMEs and ensure that no one is left behind in the journey towards economic resilience and prosperity.

About Marion

Marion is a highly experienced and accomplished strategy, innovation and leadership professional with a focus on the enterprise and government sectors. She is a trusted advisor to CEOs and senior executives, providing practical and pragmatic solutions to the challenges they face. Marion is the Managing Director at Azolla Holdings Pty Ltd, a Board member, thought leader and member of an international entrepreneur association.

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