Photo: ACDI/VOCA / USAID
Mercy Chisi Sakala is the owner of MC Sangwani Limited, an agribusiness venture specializing in the supply of agricultural inputs, veterinary products, and farm implements as well as day-old chicks located in Petauke, a town in the Eastern Province of Zambia.
Mercy is a very active small-and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owner working with the USAID Enterprise Development and Growth Enhanced (EDGE) Activity, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, and was among one of the first SME cohorts taken on by the EDGE Activity in May 2021. After participating in the EDGE Activity’s information and communications technology (ICT) solutions capacity-building efforts, she digitized her business and has seen an increase in the number of clients inquiring about her products and services.
Like many other SMEs working with the EDGE Activity, Mercy had challenges in fully digitizing her business operations and finding affordable digital tools to enhance her operations and increase sales. This resulted in her business not being easily found online by customers, thereby impacting the visibility of her goods and services.
“I realized I was missing out on the benefits which came with integrating digital tools into my business operations to unlock new sales channels and access information to improve the business.”
Photo: ACDI/VOCA / USAID
Mercy found a solution to her problem when she attended in-person and online capacity-building digitization trainings held by USAID EDGE partner BongoHive in September 2022. BongoHive’s training program covers eight to ten months of support to SMEs and is designed to improve the capacity of agricultural SMEs working with the EDGE Activity to use digital technology to unlock new sales channels, access information, and build connections with input, finance, and service providers.
From these trainings, Mercy gained an understanding of the social media space and Google landscape, as well as online marketplaces for digital sales and growth opportunities that exist for businesses.
Mercy’s business now has an established presence on social media via Facebook, which has more than 3 million users in Zambia. She also uses Facebook Marketplace to advertise and sell her products and generate revenue. Her business has also been listed on Google’s My Business platform (GBP), a free online business directory where companies publish business information, announcements, and updates. She admits that compared to traditional methods of marketing, GBP is one of the most cost-effective ways to boost one’s visibility in online searches. Her listing on GBP has helped her reach customers in seconds as well as easily direct customers to her business’s physical location via Google maps.
“Both our Facebook Page and Google My Business accounts have created traffic for customers every moment we post an update. We are usually overwhelmed with calls from customers who request for details of our products, and ultimately some end up making purchases.”
To support Mercy and other SMEs, the EDGE Activity conducts regular virtual digitization trainings coupled with in-person trainings. During these sessions, SMEs are also regularly introduced to new software and applications to help them create content for social media and GBP, enhancing the way SMEs conduct business.
This article was originally published by AFA