SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

Exploring Small Business Development using the Area Sector Analysis Process (ASAP)

A research opportunity facilitated by the George Washington University’s Dean’s Scholars Program allowed me to pursue an experience as an intern at the Scalabrini Center in Cape Town (SCCT) to understand the inner workings of the Employment Access Business Development Program and its clients. Sitting in as a panelist for the business development grant application process, reviewing its course curriculum, mentoring small business entrepreneurs, and teaching digital literacy skills to individuals seeking to promote their job readiness has given my research a well-rounded lens into the professional ambitions and challenges of non-nationals in South Africa. Drawing from these experiences and observations, a reflective survey was created to capture data on the social, entrepreneurial, and environmental context of small business development entrepreneurs in this program. The aim of this project is to allow the responses from these surveys to inform program coordinators at SCCT about the available resources, capital, infrastructure, and skills within client communities to assist with coordinating curriculums and skills development strategies. For future research purposes, its model can be easily replicated to allow Scalabrini’s business development program to embed this personalized and targeted monitoring and evaluation strategy into future client cohort processes. 

The surveys have been built on a template developed by the architects of the Area Sector Analysis Process (ASAP), Dr. Don Albrecht, Marion Bentley, and Riana Gayle who are also partnered with Utah State University to offer a decision support system for economic development. Their evaluation processing system uses a three-part model that matches community preferences with local assets and business needs. It does this by collecting survey data that captures the preferences of community members in terms of social, economic, and environmental quality. It then compares those preferences with the available infrastructure in those communities as well as the logistical needs of businesses to identify sectors that have the potential for growth based on their compatibility scores. This provides communities with a tool to assess which industries and skills would be most beneficial to invest in to allow for a holistic community development approach. 

During my time working with the ASAP team, I completed two projects with this model where I identified both online and sector-specific employment opportunities for two rural communities in Alaska (Minto and Nenana). This experience allowed me to think about how this model could be expanded to other contexts beyond rural America since its approach constitutes the basic principles of sustainable economic development. Since February of 2022, the director of the Western Rural Development Center, Dr. Don Albrecht, his team (Marion Bentley and Riana Gayle), and I have been working together to readjust the ASAP model’s surveys to fit the context of the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town’s Small Business Development (SBD) group. The final version of this modified survey captures SBD clients’ overall perception of their own financial state, their business goals, skill level, and their community's capabilities. Cross analysis of this data will help identify employment and business opportunities for those in the SBD program which are specific to their group’s economic, social, and infrastructural context. 

The SBD program’s curriculum addresses the critical skills necessary for entrepreneurs to run their businesses. The course takes small business entrepreneurs through the different business types, risks, crisis management, and SWOT analysis of their businesses' strengths and weaknesses and how to overcome them. It also outlines the various components of a business plan, how to execute that plan, how to maintain it, and how to communicate it. This in turn allows participants to practice their self-awareness and professional communication skills which helps build credibility around their brands and businesses. 

The SBD program’s operations target a wide range of small business owners, providing entrepreneurs from various backgrounds with the basic knowledge needed to navigate running a small business in South Africa. The most direct way to understand the context and experience of foreign national small business owners in Cape Town to successfully address their needs is to gather first-hand local knowledge. Hence, these surveys capture the outlook of participants’ environmental, social, and economic desires and capabilities as well as what they personally hope to achieve for their businesses, themselves, and their communities. Results from these surveys have highlighted areas that had not yet been addressed in the program such as trade management and social media training. It also found that many small business entrepreneurs are eager to share their skills with others in their community. Considering these findings can allow the program to figure out how they can build a skills development model that allows clients to share their skills and resources with others in the community who for any reason would not be able to access them from Scalabrini or other institutions themselves. Access to the details of this data and their broader analysis will be available for Scalabrini and its clients to use to assist in finding ways to foster this context’s entrepreneurial needs, desires, and ambitions. Finally, the completed research project at large will be published in December of 2022 under the Dean’s Scholars Program and presented at an Undergraduate Research Award panel in March 2023 at the George Washington University in Washington DC.


Prajna Naidoo, George Washington University

Scalabrini Center of Cape Town 

Employment Access Program (EAP) Intern


Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash  



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