The implementing agency advertised the program nationwide using its network of local representations as well as business associations. In total, 576 interested enterprises (excluding double submissions and beneficiaries of earlier cohorts) from different regions in Côte d’Ivoire submitted application documents in March 2021, 503 of which were identified as fulfilling the eligibility criteria of at least one year of existence and having at least one employee. These 503 MSMEs received an email congratulating them on their admission to the program and inviting them to a virtual program inception meeting. They were informed that the program would begin with the baseline data collection which doubled as a diagnostic, and consist of virtual and in-situ coaching. A baseline survey of 452 eligible enterprises and their employees was carried out in April and May 2021, with the remaining MSMEs refusing to participate in the survey, being unresponsive or unavailable over the duration of six weeks. Out of the MSMEs who responded to the baseline survey, 250 firms were randomly assigned to the treatment group receiving individual consulting in blocks formed by the administrative region, size in terms of the number of employees, the share of female employees, and annual revenue. Both treatment and control group received access to an online platform with courses on general management topics.
For the individual consulting, five Ivorian consulting firms that had won a local tender to deliver the program were each randomly assigned 50 firms, after blocking by geographic region and enterprise size. The consultants were tasked with the following program activities:
1) Drawing up a report including an analysis of the main weaknesses and key recommendations for each enterprise (with an emphasis on the areas of financial management and HR management);
2) Validating the contents of the report with the firm’s main manager and providing the necessary tools to implement the recommendations;
3) Validating the report and tools with the Agence CI PME;
4) Supporting the implementation of the recommendations;
5) Reporting regularly on the implementation of the recommendations.
Before contacting enterprises, the consultants were provided with the baseline data as well as a portrait of each enterprise including an analysis of financial management and HR management practices as a basis for their reports. They were encouraged to collect additional information from the firms where necessary.
During the implementation of the program, monitoring data is provided regularly by the consultants. Such data covers the number of consultant visits, weaknesses identified in the firm’s management, recommendations given, and tools provided by the consultants, as well as regular updates on the implementation of recommended changes. Shortly after the end of the program, the Agence CI PME will implement a brief follow-up survey with the enterprises of the treatment group, which will serve as a verification check for the information given by the consultants and provide information on satisfaction with and perceived usefulness of the intervention.
Approximately six and twelve months after the end of the benefits period, respectively, we will conduct follow-up interviews with treatment and control group enterprises as well as their employees. In addition and where possible, we will use administrative data from public service providers, for example the social security provider, to complement our analyses.