Growing Businesses

Entrepreneurship is a great catalyst to promote inclusive growth in developing countries.

There are more than 300 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the developing world, which provide opportunities for inclusive development to their communities in many ways. They are the main providers of jobs, particularly for less advantaged people; usually the suppliers of basic goods and services in low income or isolated communities; and very often the best market alternative for farmers. Small business owners also set an example for youth in their communities. 

Despite its large economic relevance, the SME sector in the developing world faces enormous challenges to unleashing its full potential. Lack of adequate access to talent, markets and financial services, as well as challenging operating environments have prevented these businesses from becoming small and growing businesses (SGBs), from optimal productivity, and from contributing strongly to their local and national economies.

Our Expertise

For more information,
please contact

Juan Carlos Thomas

Global Entrepreneurship Director

Entrepreneurs and their enterprises come in different shapes and sizes. TechnoServe has partnered with large corporations, multilaterals and governments to provide life changing support in a variety of settings. For instance, we help young entrepreneurs in rural Africa to start a new business; we support established SGBs to accelerate their growth and impact in mining communities in Latin America; and we work with food processors in Africa to expand their business, sourcing more products from smallholder farmers and increasing supply of nutritional food in their communities.

Our successful entrepreneurship portfolio is based on four key pillars:

Careful adaptation: We recognize that entrepreneurs face different opportunities and challenges depending on a variety of dimensions including their particular context, gender, age, stage in their growth cycle and personal appetite for growth, so we carefully adapt our methodology to better serve each particular community of entrepreneurs. 

Market driven approach: We support entrepreneurs to find markets with untapped demand opportunities to build their growth strategies and encourage them to test and capture these opportunities as quickly and affordably as possible.

Effective capacity development: Recognizing that the entrepreneurs we support are busy, hardworking individuals, we aim to efficiently provide the most relevant and effective trainings, in order for them to navigate organizational challenges by themselves in the future.

Rigorous measurement and continuous learning: We currently implement nearly 30 enterprise development programs in more than 20 countries, which provide an excellent base of data and learning. Through adhering to rigorous measurement, we strive to collectively learn and improve each program to be more effective and efficient.


In 2015 alone, our work benefited more than 4,000 businesses (62 percent women-led) in the developing world, generating $33.8 million of incremental revenue attributable to our intervention.

Help entrepreneurs grow their business and create jobs in their community with a sustainable donation.

On The Ground



Solutions for African Food Enterprises

The Solutions for African Food Enterprises (SAFE) program aims to increase the competitiveness of the African food processing sector and to expand the availability of affordable and nutritious food to local populations. The program continues a partnership with USAID, Partners in Food Solutions and TechnoServe to scale and refine the model built under AAIFP. Over the five years the program hopes to provide support to 86 processors across Kenya, Malawi and Zambia and train more than 750 employees. As of March 2016, 77 processors had been provided technical assistance and 800 employees from 522 firms had received training.

Impulsa Tu Empresa

Impulsa Tu Empresa aims to help more than 850 small and growing businesses boost their growth. Through mentoring and business training, the program aims to increase sales by $25 million and generate 750 new jobs in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Burkina Faso.
View project

Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise

TechnoServe is partnering with The MasterCard Foundation to help rural young people ages 18 to 30 in East Africa transition to economic independence.
View project

Empowering Youth Entrepreneurs in Latin America

Latin America's youth unemployment rate is nearly 30 percent. Youth face unique challenges in obtaining formal employment or becoming successful entrepreneurs. Crece Tu Empresa, TechnoServe's program in partnership with Citi Foundation, is working to address the challenge of youth unemployment in Guatemala and El Salvador. The 1-year program is based on the work of Impulsa Tu Empresa and provides six training workshops for young entrepreneurs focused on business skills like sales and marketing and financial planning. The first cohort of nearly 90 entrepreneurs began the program in 2015. As of February 2016, 42 participants have been able to increase their business' sales by 21 percent in Guatemala and 127 percent in El Salvador and have created 21 new jobs.


Citi Foundation

Mobile Savings for Women Entrepreneurs

Women in developing countries often lack access to formal savings accounts, creating challenges for female entrepreneurs. TechnoServe, in partnership with Vodacom, the World Bank and the Center for Global Development, is currently implementing a $2 million, two-year program funded by ExxonMobil Foundation in Tanzania and Mozambique. Business Women Connect, which began in October 2015, has two objectives. First, it aims to increase business income and economically empower female micro-business owners in Tanzania by introducing them to mobile savings and conducting business training. Secondly, using a randomized control trial led by the World Bank, the project will rigorously evaluate the impact of these interventions. Business Women Connect will work with approximately 5,000 businesswomen in the Mbeya and Dodoma Regions of Tanzania. The project will also undertake a market diagnostic of the mobile savings sector in Mozambique and the potential to replicate the program in that market

Tokafala: Building Strong Businesses in Botswana

As diamond reserves in Botswana dwindle, the country's entrepreneurs are playing an increasingly leading role in creating new jobs and diversifying the economy. An enterprise development program called Tokafala focuses on fostering the growth of small and growing businesses in Botswana by helping them overcome the challenges that many entrepreneurs face in the country. The three-year program, a collaboration between Anglo American and TechnoServe, will support over 230 micro, small and medium enterprises (SMMEs), impacting over 2,000 jobs. Since 2014, Tokafala has provided advisory services and mentorship to more than 215 SMMEs, helping entrepreneurs develop the business, financial management and marketing skills they need to build successful and sustainable businesses. The project has successfully established a business hub, and has developed strong partnerships with leading organizations, such as the Chamber of Mines’ Business Development Forum, as well as Debswana’s supply chain and a number of commercial banks to provide advisory services to local SMMEs.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Mumbai

This program targets growth-constrained, women-led small and microenterprises, operating in the unorganized or informal sector in the Mumbai urban area. Potential enterprises would have an annual turnover exceeding $10,000, with a significant number expected to be operating in the social and services sectors. The program includes training of women entrepreneurs selected through a screening process, and a business advisory program including mentoring support for identified women most positioned to scale up their businesses.

Accelerating Women and Youth Led Businesses

The Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs in South African Metros (AWESAM) program aims to increase the economic participation of urban women and youth in the South African economy by converting subsistence-based businesses into high-growth and competitive ventures. AWESAM, which began in 2013, aimed to support 30 entrepreneurs through mentorship, business development services and access to finance to improve their small businesses. In late 2014 through late 2015, Citi Foundation supported TechnoServe in implementing a second phase of the program, AWESAM II. The project supported 83 business through business plan validation, individualized business advisory services and access to finance. Graduating businesses reported an increased financial benefit of over $125,000.


Citi Foundation

Increasing Sales for Small and Growing Businesses

The objective of EMERGE program, created by Anglo American, is the acceleration of micro and small businesses in the communities surrounding Anglo American operations in Chile. The program began in the 2006, and since 2011 the program has been operated by Anglo American in alliance with TechnoServe. The program provides business mentoring, one on one advisory support, on-line training, workshops and access to financing. Starting 2016 the program additionally offers the opportunity to be part of the procurement chain for various large companies in the country. This program is differentiated by the focus on installing managerial capacities rather than providing funding and includes a segmented offering according to the needs of each segment. Segments are based on size of the business. So far the program has worked with more than 1,300 participants, which have increased sales by a range of 30 percent to more than 100 percent.


Anglo American

Blog Posts

September 27, 2016

Promoting Entrepreneurship in Post-Conflict Areas

In fragile environments like northern Uganda, opportunities for youth are a vital pillar of lasting economic development.

Read More

September 23, 2016

From Shopkeepers to Shop Masters

Owners of mom and pop shops in Nairobi are making small changes that add up to big profits.

Read More

July 21, 2016

How to Start a Business When Failure is Not an Option

Global Entrepreneurship Director, Juan Carlos Thomas, reflects on addressing the risk of failure in TechnoServe's work with small and growing businesses.

Read More

More Posts

Thought Leadership

In the News

Opportunities Galore | The Economist

This article about entrepreneurship in Africa highlights TechnoServe's work with young people in Rwanda.

3 Unorthodox Lessons for Latin America’s Entrepreneurs | World Economic Forum Agenda

Entrepreneuership Director Juan Carlos Thomas shares lessons from TechnoServe's projects in Latin America.

A Holistic Approach: Three Keys to Helping Small Businesses Access the Finance They Need | NextBillion

Jane Abramovich and Evan Spark-DePass provide insights about how to help small-and-medium enterprises access finance.

View All

Event Appearances

September 28-30, 2016

Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit

Washington, D.C.

TechnoServe's Alice Waweru speaks about a project to support the owners of small shops in Kenya.

View All