Digital services for cash strapped Egyptian SMEs

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Starting a business in Egypt is not easy, in large part because of the hassle involved in registering a new establishment and obtaining the necessary licenses. As a result, in 2016, the Middle East’s most populous country ranked a dismal 122 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.

While the Egyptian government tries to address these concerns in a bid to facilitate investment and business, private sector companies have jumped in to provide solutions to entrepreneurs and startups lacking the digital tools to kickstart their projects.

Business Passport emerges as SMEs’ ticket to the digital age

Alexbank recently positioned itself as a committed assistant to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), by launching the online platform Business Passport.

Business Passport offers non-financial value added services that are customized to help the growth and workflow of SMEs, project manager at Link Development, Nael Osman told Wamda.

Egyptian company Link Development provides Alexbank with the the needed digital marketplace on cloud computing platform Azure, Osman said, explaining that the services offered through the marketplace, which include a website builder, toolkits, and training materials, are built on his company’s business products.

The website builder helps SMEs to create a website on the internet, one either financed through Alexbank or achieved at low cost, with the aim of improving a company’s online presence.

Meanwhile, the SME toolkit can be used by SMEs to access hundreds of articles, tips, and online training sources about starting up and entrepreneurship, as well as tutorials on accounting, finance, marketing, and technology, “to help them master business management practices,” Osman said.

Other services SMEs can avail themselves of include using the credit facility at low interest rates to purchase cloud-based digital products, following the Central Bank of Egypt’s initiative for SMEs.

Benefits for both sides

Building an inclusive program, Alexbank has partnered with telecommunications firm Etisalat, outsourcing local company BDO Esnad, the Egyptian Junior Business Association, and SME Toolkit Egypt to offer integrated services for the management of participating SMEs.

In addition to the benefits accrued by SMEs, Osman explained, “companies [that] want to scale up their business and enjoy various products offered by the partners” will be able to do so, and expand their customer base all the while.

SMEs as a focus

Catering to SMEs’ needs is not a new activity for Link Development, which has been empowering small businesses over the past few years in cooperation with Microsoft, focusing on initiatives in Egypt, Bahrain, and Africa.

For example, Link Development’s “SME4Egypt” initiative works with market players, such as banks and telecom companies, to provide young firms with digital services and easy tools, all of which can be easily run from the cloud, to help them improve.

Meanwhile, Alexbank offers various funding programs to support SMEs, as a result of which it was named the Middle East Best Bank for SMEs in June 2016 by Euromoney.

In the same vein, the bank signed a cooperation agreement with the Egyptian Exchange in April to facilitate access to capital for SMEs’ expansion.

“The initiative provides additional financing sources [while also] attracting new shareholders through NILEX, the first market dedicated to SMEs in the MENA,” head of the Egyptian Exchange Mohamed Omran said in an official statement at the time.

The listing of SMEs on the stock exchange is positive for companies because it renders them more visible and transparent, and therefore more attractive to investors and funders, Omran added.

In short, Business Passport is offering attractive solutions to emerging companies that do not have the mentorship opportunities or the connections to launch a website at low cost.

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