According to the research made by Mastercard, different sectors have been exposed to the deep impact of life in business, post-Covid-19, but, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises’ confidence across most sectors is on the rise.
The inaugural Mastercard Middle East and Africa (MEA) SME Confidence Index found that 78% of SMEs in the retail sector have really high hopes for the next 12 months. The research found that retail businesses had really high confidence, slightly above other sectors like food and beverage, entertainment, construction and manufacturing. In addition, at least 70% of these SMEs are of the projection that revenues will either grow or hold steady.
Keys for Future Growth Identified
As regional economies gradually return to normalcy and social restrictions are being eased, small and medium sized businesses in the MEA’s regional retail territory have identified 4 key ways to accelerate future growth:
- Training and upskilling staff (55%)
- Acceptance of digital payments (49%)
- Better data and insights (49%), and
- Easier access to finance (49%)
These keys point to the fact that opportunities arise for small businesses from both internal transformation as well as industry regulations and trends, and Mastercard is not sitting out. Its key focus is to give SMEs the support they need to go digital and grow digitally.
The company goes as far as working with the government and financial organizations to create an inclusive environment for the small business sector, in the wider business community.
Part of Mastercard’s support to the retail sector, is offering technology, data insights, consulting and predictive analytic solutions to empower retailers to acquire new customers, enhance customer loyalty and improve operations.
So far, Mastercard has pledged $250 million and committed to connect 50 million micro, small and medium size businesses globally to the digital economy by 2025, using its technology, network, expertise and resources to hit its goal of building an inclusive digital economy.
As Vice President Middle and East Africa, Mastercard, Amnah Ajmal puts it: “small and medium sized businesses are vital to the diversity of the progress of economic recovery. The MEA retail sector’s SMEs have shown resilience by prioritizing best practices and really internalizing the power of digital – both instore and online through contactless commerce forward into a future of growth”.
The Concerns of Rising Cost and Staff Maintenance
About 56% of regional SMEs in retail mentioned that the challenge to maintain and grow their business was top of their issues. Pertaining to concerns over the next 12 months, 54% identified the rising cost as that of doing business, while 41% mentioned access to capital.
Talking about operations, concerns for next year was maintaining staff levels (42%), training staff (37%) and finding the right talent for new needs (36%).
There is also the angle of a cash-free economy. This research pointed out that confidence levels as regards the benefits of a cash-free economy were growing, and this stems from the understanding that SMEs have about a growing digital economy.
When some were asked about the benefits of a cash-free economy to their businesses, below are some results and their numbers:
50% mentioned faster access to revenues, 47% mentioned the ease of not processing cash. 45% also mentioned less incident of cyber fraud.
This trend is obviously not alone, as consumers have also ported to cash-free online transactions. Last year alone, 73% of consumers in the Middle East and Africa shopped more online, than they did before the start of the pandemic.
Obviously, if the option of a cash-free operation is made accessible to SMEs, the potential growth of the business will be set on a high frequency. Expectedly, new methods are gaining grounds and 9 in 10 shoppers would consider making a purchase with an emerging payment technology including cryptocurrency, biometrics, QR codes, digital wallets and wearables.