Unleashing the Potential of Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs): Insights from ANDE Conference 2023

The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) Annual Conference stands as a historic milestone in the organization’s journey, serving as the world’s largest gathering of members dedicated to strengthening entrepreneurial ecosystems for small businesses. Held for the first time outside of the United States in Accra, Ghana, the 2023 conference, themed “Accelerating Action: Small Business Solutions and the SDGs,” emphasized the significant progress made thus far and identified the future requirements needed to support SGBs to increase their impact on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the next seven years.

From September 12th to 14th, esteemed leaders, practitioners, and visionaries from the realms of small business and impact investment attended the event, offering a unique opportunity to gain insights and inspiration from some of the world’s most influential figures. This year’s conference was particularly significant as ANDE chose to merge its Annual Conference with the West Africa Regional Conference, aptly titled “Made in West Africa.” This combined event delved into the latest trends in the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem, emphasized existing requirements, and encouraged the adoption of best practices to foster the growth of SGBs in the region.

In anticipation of this event, expectations and excitement ran high at MEDA for the opportunity to share, learn, and network with counterparts from across the globe. The objective of our panel was clear: to disseminate the principles, practices, and strategies necessary to support the sustainable growth of SGBs to create decent work in the Global South.

This interactive conference drew in over 400 participants from every corner of the world, including entrepreneurs, international development organizations, UN representatives, experts, government officials from Ghana, and donors. MEDA’s participation in the conference offered valuable insights into the strategic utilization of incentives to promote SGBs in an African context and beyond. The enthusiastic participation and engaging discussions underscored the global interest in MEDA’s chosen topic.

“What Key Market Players Can Learn from the Role of Smart Incentives in Stimulating SGB Growth in Africa,” was a standout at the conference as it resonated with the current challenges of SGBs in Africa and shed light on the importance of deploying smart incentives to stimulate market behavior while mitigating potential distortions. The panel highlighted successful examples from MEDA’s Greater Opportunity for Women (GROW2) project funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and the Mastercard Africa Growth Fund, funded by Mastercard Foundation (MCF), as they rolled out smart incentives to catalyze the growth of SGBs in Ghana.

We were pleased to invite SGBs who have worked with MEDA to attend the conference to showcase their businesses, forge partnerships, and learn from industry experts. These SGBs (Dr. Sanatu Alidu of Dinmbone Farm Gate and Murjana Abubakari of Suglo Suhulo Enterprise) seized the chance and were able to heighten their visibility within the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“The ANDE conference aligned very well with Dinmbone Farm Gate’s mission of adding value to the businesses of our customers, distributors, and retailers of seeds, fertilizers, and other value-added products in agriculture. During our speaking opportunity on the MEDA panel, it was clear that many other organizations became interested in working with us and I was able to network with experts from all over the world. I want to take the opportunity to thank MEDA for the opportunity to attend the conference which has opened more doors and partnerships for my business.”

Sanatu Alidu, Founder of Dinmbone Farm Gate

The networking and collaboration opportunities at the conference were invaluable. Meaningful interactions and connections, especially among the SMEs, were made which have the potential to drive future projects and initiatives that can propel global SME growth.

Globally recognized as a thought leader in entrepreneurship promotion, particularly for women and youth, MEDA’s implementation of its catalytic and transformative smart incentives model is well-regarded. Smart incentives play a pivotal role in accelerating market behavior, fostering relationships among market actors, and achieving inclusive, just, and sustainable growth.

MEDA’s unwavering commitment to inclusive economic development in emerging economies aligns with the themes discussed at the ANDE conference, particularly in the context of smart incentives. We share a vision with ANDE in promoting entrepreneurship, and we will actively continue to contribute to SGB growth in Africa.



  • Zakaria Isshaku, Ph.D.

    Technical Specialist II, Market Systems. Zakaria is MEDA’s Senior Technical Specialist for Market Systems Development. An expert in building transformative agri-food market systems, he brings almost twenty years of experience in the international development sector. As a scholar, he is a published author in academic journals. Zakaria has broad expertise in project management, market research, sustainable development, market analysis, and international development, capacity building, and climate change science.

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