Financial administration on paper now belongs to the past for 20 unions in Ethiopia producing animal feed. The unions are equipped and trained in software program Sage 50, as requested by ACDI/VOCA. Three other unions joined as they were not using the software to full capacity. Over the course of project, these unions have mastered the skills of digital accounting.
“This is the first time Agriterra was asked by an external party to deliver a training on this scale”, Ethiopia business advisor Edna Mekonnen Kebede explains, “and we were recommended by our own clients to provide the training. A big compliment”. ACDI/VOCA is a US development aid organisation and works, amongst others, with cooperatives which produce animal feed. They approached Agriterra in spring 2018 with a clear objective: we want digital reports from the cooperatives to do better market research and to be able to make solid business decisions throughout the year. At that point, the unions used paper administration for their financial accounting, which meant that they could only make informed business decisions once a year when the books closed. Information about raw materials, its costs, selling price, and everything in between is essential to get insight into business opportunities.
During a pre-training assessment, unions were selected to participate in the training based on number of accountants available at the union (to make sure knowledge stays in-house when an employee leaves) and financial results. Funded by ACDI/VOCA, Agriterra arranged computers, the software program and the network connection. Some additional trainers were hired to assist with the training, an IT expert was appointed to fix the network at the union, and together with Edna they adjusted the training to make it fit to animal feed production. “This makes the training more efficient and applicable, so the trainees can use it immediately”, Edna says.
The training took 4 days and the implementation of the practical issues another 3 days. It was all done at once, to make the most out of the time spent at the union. Not only accountants were trained during this week, also the union IT expert was trained to be able to use the system and solve future problems. Auditors were included in the training to make sure they were able to audit the union based on their digital reporting system. Edna was the coordinator of this immense project: “The project was a logistical challenge. To reach all 23 unions and provide them with the right equipment and information required a decent planning”.
After more than two years, results are satisfying. 16 unions are actively using Sage 50 and are committed to be doing so for coming years. Selected trainers will do a follow-up with these 16, according to the Agriterra approach, and make an inventory of which accountants are ready for an advanced training. “It all comes down to commitment and being convinced of the advantages of Sage 50. If the accountants or managers are not acknowledging the usefulness of the system, it won’t work”, according to Edna. These 16 unions delivered reports to ACDI/VOCA and are now ready for the next step: analysing the reports.
There are unions that stand out with their performance in each region. Bokura, Liben, Admas injibara and Damota wolita are very committed. They are a great examples of unions getting the most out of the software. Agriterra will plan to give these unions additional training on how to do analysis to make strategic decision.
Edna is working on making promotion materials for other unions, to inspire them to use the system as well. Videos will be made in local language with four unions which are very successful in using the system. Digitalising administration provides businesses more tools to prepare for the future.