Launch of toolkit to accelerate development of investment-ready firms in Sierra Leone

Start-ups, investors, business development service providers and other stakeholders from Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurial ecosystem attended an investment-focused workshop in Freetown on 14 March 2023 to launch a new toolkit designed to accelerate the development of investment-ready businesses in Sierra Leone.

The Investment Toolkit for SMEs in Sierra Leone was produced by the international impact investor Acumen for Invest Salone, the UK–government-funded private sector initiative. The toolkit is tailored to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Sierra Leone and is based on insights from a series of investment-readiness bootcamps led by Acumen in 2021 and 2022, which indicated that firms in Sierra Leone require substantial pre-investment support to become viable impact investment prospects.

Chukwu-Emeka Chikezie, Invest Salone’s Team Leader, opened the event by saying: “An enabling ecosystem for enterprises requires awareness, interested investors and the right frameworks and incentives. One of our key learnings has been that many SMEs in Sierra Leone lack the knowledge of what is required to become investment-ready and the mechanisms to reach there.”

Andrew Tarazid-Tarawali, Associate Director, Acumen, then followed to guide the audience through the toolkit. He explained that it is intended to empower SMEs by providing critical steps to investment-readiness: “The toolkit is based on our extensive work with small and medium-sized businesses in Sierra Leone who want to attract investment. It includes a list of common gaps among Sierra Leonean SMEs, recommendations on how these gaps can be addressed, a list of resources they can leverage to close them, and mechanisms for determining appropriate capital structures for these companies”.

“It incorporates best practices from impact investing, and key commercial investment practices, to create a structured and rigorous approach that we hope will enable more Sierra Leonean companies to become investment-ready and catalyse investments from impact investors into the country,” he adds.

Pooja Melwani works with Invest Salone to link investors and firms to encourage and facilitate investment in Sierra Leone. She says that the toolkit is part of a body of activities supported by PROSPER Salone, Invest Salone’s match funding facility, to encourage investment in Sierra Leone by reducing the risks of market entry for investors. “Invest Salone partnered with Acumen through PROSPER Salone to build a pipeline of investible businesses. Eleven companies have gone through investment-readiness bootcamps and participated in an impact investment deal summit. This toolkit makes the learning from these activities available to a much wider group.”

The Smallholder Commercialisation and Agribusiness Development Project (SCADeP) is currently working with 106 grantees, including SMEs, producer organisations and agribusinesses. Dr Henry Kamara, grants management specialist with SCADeP, said that the toolkit would be invaluable in helping make their grantees more competitive and attractive to potential investors.

Regina Bjarnadottir, Executive Director of the Aurora Foundation – a non-profit foundation supporting cultural and social projects in Iceland and Africa, says: “This is a very beneficial tool. I think it is very practical to have all this information in such a compact way, with clear guidance on the importance of each element.”

Download a copy of the Investment Toolkit for SMEs in Sierra Leone from Invest Salone’s website.

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