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PAC-PME: business growth support for Malian SMEs

In January 2022, Fair & Sustainable Consulting (F&S) began implementing PAC-PME (Projet d’Accompagnement à la Croissance des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises Maliennes), which translates as accompanying SMEs to grow. This accelerator programme, financed by the Netherlands Business Agency (RVO), is implemented in Bamako and two other regions until March 2024.   

As a dual objective programme, PAC-PME first aims to support 100 entrepreneurs (40% of which are women) to strengthen and grow their businesses via mentorships, targeted training courses, peer coaching, and facilitation of a link to investors. Second, the programme aims to generate a better understanding of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the barriers to growth for young entrepreneurs in the context. As a result, the programmes fosters established companies, which are resilient to changes in the Malian business environment, that offer employment opportunities to the entrepreneurs themselves and additional employees. 

Mentoring is the key ingredient of the PAC-PME approach. Research shows that mentoring positively impacts business performance, especially when mentors come from the same context or community as the mentees. This contrasts with more traditional approaches in which coaches, despite their best intentions, sometimes prevent entrepreneurs from taking charge of their journey towards personal development and business growth. Our mentors are seasoned entrepreneurs which receive intensive training (two full days of mentor training, and quarterly intervision sessions among themselves) to acquire the necessary skills to establish a healthy and effective relationship with their mentees. 

For the young entrepreneurs, PAC-PME includes quarterly peer group coaching sessions in which they share experiences (e.g., in overcoming challenges) and knowledge. Peer group coaching is found to have a positive long-lasting impact on business performance. In our experience, entrepreneurs enjoy learning from each other and highly value this type of engagement. 

Tailor-made short and simple group training sessions will provide PAC-PME’s entrepreneurs with tried and tested tools that they can apply directly in doing business. After the training workshops the PAC-PME team follows-up with entrepreneurs to support them in applying these tools.  

Finally, networking events and financial matchmaking will give the entrepreneurs access to relevant networks of investors, and other business contacts necessary for a growing and thriving business. 

To better understand the barriers to growth for Malian SMEs, the PAC-PME team collects and analyses quantitative and qualitative data on the challenges and bottlenecks that young entrepreneurs encounter when accelerating their businesses. The team subsequently shares this information with important stakeholders (e.g., Embassies, RVO and others), and provides advice and recommendations on possible new private sector development projects. 

Following the inception phase, PAC-PME started with a first batch of 27 entrepreneurs and 12 mentors from Bamako. The launch was marked by a event on September 7th in the presence of the Minister of Entrepreneurship, Employment, and Vocational Training, Mr. Bakary Doumbia, the Ambassador of the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Mali, Mr. Marchel Gerrmann, as well as the promotor of the first cohort, Mr. Mossadeck Bally, CEO of the Azalai Hotel Group.   

Although the security situation in Mali is volatile, the PAC-PME team expects this to not impact the first batch of the programme. However, PAC-PME aims to also include entrepreneurs and mentors from the Regions (e.g., Sikasso, Ségou or Mopti). A periodic risk-assessment informs the extent to which the latter is feasible.  

The F&S team that is implementing the programme includes Victor van der Linden, Annelien Meerts, Wouter van Bruggen and André Vording from the F&S The Netherlands office. The team in Mali: Sidiki Konaté, Oudou Bengaly, Lassina Koné, and Maichata Coulibaly, are associated consultants with F&S.

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