Topic 3: MSME support in the digital era

Digital technologies open new possibilities to support MSMEs, such as e-learning, cloud-based accounting or e-commerce. This topic will analyze the impact of digitalization on MSME support and their delivery channels.

Knowledge Gifts

The following Knowledge Gifts will be presented during the Practitioners' Exchange:


Digitalisation as the megatrend

Is digitalisation driving economic and social change equally across emerging markets? Can we identify a point of no return for an economy moving to a digitalised model? Digital readiness and digital opportunity differ across sectors and across business lines; how can we help MSMEs understand where the real returns on investment for digitalisation lie?

Is digitalisation an opportunity or a threat for MSMEs?

Digitalisation can be considered to ‘democratise the market’, i.e. to offer opportunities for smaller players to apply business models that do not depend on scale or through tools like digital marketplaces that overcome the constraints of being regionally based. But investment is needed, both financially and in terms of reconsidering business models, which carries risks for the MSME. There are also a bewildering range of new technologies, systems, software and business relationship models coming into the market – how can MSMEs be supported to understand the right digital opportunities for their business?

Digitalisation is an ecosystem

Digitalisation rests on a network of interconnected factors, from infrastructure to market awareness to skills development, within the market and the MSME. Where should the emphasis and the MSME support be placed?

Digitalisation vs. digitisation vs. digital transformation; these are not the same

Digital business transformation is organisational change through the use of digital technologies and innovative business models to improve corporate performance. What should private sector development actors like IFIs be promoting? What are the overlaps with promoting innovation among MSMEs?

MSMEs are often time-constrained – can flexible approaches (such as online and modular) be effective?

An answer to this question depends on weighing the potential benefits of increased reach to MSMEs and more flexibility against the potential costs of reduced learning outcomes, limited content-tailoring and lack of relationship building opportunities through online training courses and seminars.

70% of digital transformation efforts fail (McKinsey 2017):

Why? Not because of lack of financial investment, but because organisational culture fails to change and thus behaviours fail to change. Where can MSME support programmes be effective in delivering positive outcomes for digital transformation efforts?

Financing for digitalisation?

Digitalisation often calls for investment in new technologies or software. But is it feasible to use access to finance to incentivise digitalisation changes to other areas of the business or to shifting to a digital business model?

Topic Hosts

Alexander Paine - European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

  • Alex is based in London and works in the SME Finance and Development Team of EBRD
  • In this role he heads up a development group that designs new programmes in the SME space.
  • Currently under development are programmes focusing on the deployment of advice and financing to women led businesses, trade finance for SMEs, IPO and corporate bond listings for SMEs, and supporting the development of early stage enterprises.
  • Alex also looks after the strategic development of EBRD’s  International Advisory programme (formerly EGP/TAM). This programme covers 26 countries and works with @330 SME’s per annum deploying sector focused experts for 18 month projects with a focus on enterprise growth.
  • Prior to his move to London he was a partner in South East Europe’s leading M&A practice covering the mid cap sector in Former Yugoslavia completing 41 M&A transactions
  • Alex also worked for the IFC managing its SME Advisory programme in the Balkans after a short period as a banker.

Christian Cronauer - European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

Christian came into the sphere of international development following degrees in International Relation (LSE) and European Studies (UCL), as well as a stint in investigative due diligence.

At EBRD, Christian has aimed to further strengthen the monitoring and evaluation framework of its Advice for Small Businesses operations – helping, for example, to make sense of data collected individually from almost 20,000 SMEs in 30+ countries. Christian is also one of the principal authors of multiple editions of the SME Policy Index, assessing policies for SME development across Eastern and South Eastern Europe.

Outside of work, Christian enjoys both playing and watching football, as well as travelling and cooking

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