Washington, November 7, 2017 - Claudette Sarr-Krook was struggling to connect her natural products company in The Gambia with customers. As CEO of Care for Natural, she wanted to increase sales of her locally-produced yogurts, aloe vera, and jam, but had hit a stumbling block.
“We wanted to get our finger on the pulse of the industry in order to better price our products and be more competitive,” said Sarr-Krook. “But doing so required expertise which was simply not available at an affordable cost in The Gambia. We worked with the World Bank Group to professionalize our business and gain credibility in the eyes of potential customers.”
A World Bank Group project completed in 2015, The Growth & Competitiveness Project, aimed to improve the business environment for entrepreneurs like Claudette. The project was funded through a $12 million grant from the International Development Association, the Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and was executed by the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice.
Sarr-Krook says that as a result of the project, her company benefited from improved quality and predictability from her suppliers. But the company also gained a great deal from the training aspect of the project. As a result, Care for Natural was able to introduce new product labels that included logos, nutritional value, and ingredients; calculate the prices of its products more accurately; develop a marketing system; and forge links with new buyers in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe. Claudette expanded the business, and by the project’s end, Care for Natural had increased its sales from $1.3 million per year to $3.4 million.
“The Growth & Competitiveness Project greatly changed the way we do business,” said Sarr-Krook. “We are able to give potential customers information faster, we gained a better grip on price and cost, our products look better, and our profits are easier to predict. This helps us decide which investments we dare to make and which not.”
“We have gone through hard times in The Gambia where business is concerned,” Sarr-Krook added. “It was difficult to grow given the political situation. However, we are now well prepared for any opportunity that may arise from a new Gambia.”
Achieving positive results in The Gambia, designated a country affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) by the OECD in 2016, required a tailored approach. For that reason, the project had multiple elements: addressing overarching challenges in the business environment to pave the way for local entrepreneurs and then honing in on two of The Gambia’s largest industries – small-scale agriculture and tourism.
In 2010 when the project launched, starting a business in The Gambia was difficult and expensive. It took, on average, 27 days to receive a business license and the license cost entrepreneurs roughly 215% of their annual income (measured by GNI per capita).
The Growth and Competitiveness Project helped establish an online business registration system and abolish extraneous taxes and regulations that prevented entrepreneurs from formalizing their businesses. The Gambia saw significant improvement. By the project’s close in 2015, the days required to receive a business license had been shaved from 27 to three, and business registration costs decreased from 215% to 141% of average annual income.
These improvements opened the door for new entrepreneurs to get their businesses off the ground. By the end of the project, more than 10,000 new enterprises had registered.
“Projects like this that support business environment reform are critical to our development,” said Naffie Barry, chairperson of the project’s steering committee and Permanent Secretary at The Gambia’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment. “Business environment reforms enhance the competitiveness of our economy, help attract more private investment, and thus create growth, employment, and wealth accumulation. With a vibrant private sector, unemployment is usually kept to a controllable level which ensures peace and stability.”