Promoting a Fee-for-Service Business Advisory Services (BAS) Market for Agribusiness SMEs in East Africa

The Agribusiness Investment for Market Stimulation (AIMS) program was a seven-year USD 19 million program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which included a USD 50 million Loan Guarantee Facility (LGF) backed by the Overseas Private investment Corporation (OPIC). AIMS utilized a market systems approach to support agribusiness small and medium enterprises (A-SMEs) in Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi to increase their volume and value of trade.

One of AIMS’ objectives was to improve the capacity of A-SMEs by connecting them to quality business advisory services providers (BASPs) who deliver services—including business planning, financial management and bookkeeping, and branding and marketing—that can help A-SMEs increase sales turnover, reduce costs, generate new market opportunities, access finance, and expand their businesses.

To this effect, AIMS’ efforts centered on developing a market-driven system of advisory services, in which BASPs and A-SMEs would directly engage with one another. As such, interventions focused on reducing barriers, strengthening trust, and incentivizing merit-based, demand-driven relationships.

This brief highlights the key lessons learned from AIMS’ experience on what has worked well, and not worked so well, in attempting to make BAS a business in itself. This learning is targeted toward practitioners working in agricultural value chains and SME development, as well as policy makers and donor and development agencies, to guide them on how to support market-driven BAS development.