A free digital education platform has been launched to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) navigate the post pandemic business environment.

The platform launched by Mastercard Academy brings together a range of academic and business resources to help Kenyan business owners get back to profitability.

Dubbed ‘The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey’, the solution targets urban kiosks, rural farmers, fashion stores, service providers and online entrepreneurs who faced unprecedented changes in the ‘new normal’ created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The   platform has direct links to recorded videos meant to bring participants face-to-face with professors from Harvard, Wharton and the Christiansen Institute of Innovation, alongside an expert Mastercard faculty.  

The innovation is a mobile and tablet-friendly, self-paced curriculum that includes online lessons across 21 modules with a total of 28 videos of approximately 20-30 minutes each.

Following a five-pathway approach, the resources are open to all aspiring and established entrepreneurs with no limits on number of viewers and free to watch. The platform will also be offered to government partners. 

Mastercard said the digital tool is part of last year’s announcement of Sh26 billion commitment over five years to support SMEs with digital training during the pandemic.

The company said it will further empower small businesses with data insights and knowledge to help them make decisions more efficiently and securely run their enterprises.  

Michael Froman, Vice Chairman and President, Strategic Growth for Mastercard said small businesses, being the backbone of local communities and an engine for the global economy, the company will be ensuring that small business owners have access to the right educational resources to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

“The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey is the latest in our Mastercard efforts to deliver on the needs of these critical businesses so they can design, launch, manage and grow their ventures,” he said.

Prof Daniel Isenberg, CEO of Entrepreneurship Policy Advisors and former professor, Harvard Business School urged every small business owner and startup entrepreneur in Kenya, particularly those with growth ambitions, to join The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey by Mastercard, which he regarded a highly compelling online educational program.

“Particularly now that digital presence and operations are even more essential than in the past, The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey will help startup and SME owners upgrade their practices to use new tools to address rapidly changing customer expectations. It provides highly relevant entrepreneurship and management principles, and practical tools that anyone can apply to their businesses successfully,” he said.

The small business segment worldwide remains diverse and vast representing the majority of businesses in local economies, with SMEs having a significant impact on employment, growth and GDP, with the potential to make a genuine difference in terms of equality, inclusion and community wellbeing. 

Raghav Prasad, Division President, Sub-Saharan Africa, Mastercard stressed the need to support small businesses, saying there’s often a knowledge gap, especially for smaller enterprises that have been operating in traditional ways until recently.

“By leveraging its technology, insights, global expertise and partnership approach, Mastercard aims to empower every business everywhere to grow digitally, become stronger than before, and prosper in a more connected, equal, and inclusive world,” he explained.

‘The Entrepreneur’s Odyssey’ is a progression of other similar SME-related programs that Mastercard has developed in the past such as The Mastercard Trust Center which provides SME owners with links to curated education, resources and tools from trusted external sources to help them defend their business against cyberattacks. 

The Mastercard Digital Doors program also helps small businesses open their digital doors get SMEs online, protect their business, and ensure they have the right tools to digitally transform.