SME representatives came together in Kampala last month for a workshop hosted by the World Bank Institute and its partners, including the Africa Capacity Building Foundation and Enterprise Uganda. The focus was managing company social and environmental impacts.
While receptive to the importance of sustainable approaches, one of the key requests from the participating companies was to hear less from international experts and more from big business counterparts. In particular, the firms are seeking stronger linkages, even twinning, with the large local firms and multinationals operating in their sector.
As governments and development institutions are increasingly recognizing, such business linkages programs can be an effective instrument to encourage economic growth and improve living conditions in many countries. Supply-chain linkages provide a natural conduit for technology transfer, improved access to finance and broader production networks, and to encourage better adherence to international environmental, health and safety, labor, and quality standards.
Interesting examples detailing the value of such partnerships can be found in the recent report on Building Linkages for Competitive and Responsible Entrepreneurship written by Jane Nelson on behalf of UNIDO and Harvard. Nelson categorizes the various forms such linkages take and notes the importance of public policy measures to support such enterprise development. The latter is a point taken further in the Bank's own FIAS report from earlier this year on Moving Toward Competitiveness – A Value-Chain Approach.