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Enhancing Innovation Support Programs for SMEs in Benin and Senegal: A Focus on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

20 December 2022
Human development

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a significant role in the economic growth, poverty reduction, and job creation in developing countries. [bctt tweet="In Sub-Saharan Africa, SMEs represent over 90% of businesses and contribute between 40 and 60% of GDP." username="acedafrica"] To ensure a greater contribution of SMEs to national economies, African governments and development partners provide support for SME growth and expansion, often through Innovation support Programs (ISPs). However, the actual impact of ISPs on SME development and performance, and on aspects of EDI, remains unclear. This research aims to address this knowledge gap and inform innovation practice and policy in Benin, Senegal, and other West African countries. This blog post discusses a research project aimed at understanding the performance and distributive impacts of ISPs on SMEs in Benin and Senegal, with a focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).

The research aims to improve knowledge on the performance and distributive impacts of ISPs for SMEs in Benin and Senegal by integrating equity, diversity, and inclusion considerations. The research strategy includes three main components: (i) evaluating the impact of ISPs on SMEs performance and EDI enhancement, (ii) identifying factors that influence the survival of incubated SMEs, and (iii) formulating an evidence-based roadmap to inform improvements in ISPs, including their potential impact on EDI enhancement in the targeted countries and West Africa more broadly.

The research will focus on two selected ISPs: the "UAC Startup Valley" incubator in Benin and the "Small and Medium Enterprise Business Training and Coaching Loop" in Senegal. The research will use a transdisciplinary approach to answer research questions while integrating equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) analyses. The research aims to achieve two major outcomes: First, by actively involving policymakers in the research process, it will enhance their understanding of ISPs' effectiveness on SME performance and EDI enhancement, stimulating their willingness to adapt existing support mechanisms and policies. Second, by involving innovation agencies in the research process, the project will help co-create knowledge, facilitate its acceptance and use in existing support systems, and strengthen the links between researchers and innovation agencies, ultimately leading to improved support approaches and EDI enhancement.

[bctt tweet="Evaluating the impact of innovation support programs on SMEs in Benin and Senegal, with a focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion, is crucial for informing policy and practice in the region." username="acedafrica"] By combining academic and endogenous knowledge, this research project aims to create a solid evidence base to improve ISPs and support the growth and development of SMEs in West Africa.

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