The PRIME project

The PRIME project

PRIME combines different research components which differ in scope and depth. Yearly, quantitative monitoring of outcomes in all supported companies is complemented by qualitative case studies in six countries. PRIME also made a literature review of the academic studies on the effectiveness of similar SME support interventions.

PRIME stands for Pioneering Real‐time Impact Monitoring and Evaluation and is a research partnership between Wageningen Economic Research and the Erasmus School of Economics, supported by private sector development organizations PUM and CBI.

For the quantitative research, PRIME constructed time-series datasets on key characteristics of all SMEs during the period 2014-2018. The information on the changes in these indicators were analysed every year, as ‘real-time monitoring’. The resulting dataset was used to do econometric analysis of changes in firm outcomes during the years (time-series), and to compare between groups of companies that started receiving support at different points in time (cohort analysis).

Case studies have been conducted in six beneficiary countries in the sectors where CBI and PUM are both supporting SMEs. These case studies consisted of in-depth and semi-structured interviews with client enterprises, non-client enterprises, BSO representatives, and local (sector) experts in order to get a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that affect SME processes and performance.

The development of the PRIME methodology has been described in different research briefs.

The PRIME programme collects information on the effects of the support offered by CBI and PUM to small and medium enterprises in developing countries.

Based on six qualitative case studies and yearly monitoring of all supported companies through an online survey, PRIME was able to provide key insights into the contribution of CBI and PUM to SME knowledge, business practices and performance.

The case studies

We have conducted qualitative research to identify the processes and mechanisms in the client selection and support trajectory of CBI and PUM. This qualitative research gives us a better understanding of the context in which the interventions take place and a more concrete micro-level understanding of the characteristics of the interventions and the barriers and enablers to the effectiveness of the support.

Final report for CBI

The PRIME results largely confirm CBI’s theory of change. The final CBI report not only shows how the organisation has generated positive changes in terms of SME knowledge and practices, but also proves that the CBI contribution to better practices is related to increased exports and higher profits. While all firms indicate to have benefited from in-country training and coaching provided by CBI, the CBI support to participation of SMEs in trade fairs benefits larger SMEs more than smaller companies.

Final report for PUM

The PRIME results demonstrate PUM’s contribution to knowledge transfer, better practices and improved SME performance. The results show that PUM has generated positive changes in SME’s knowledge and business practices. While these improved practices are often related to higher sales, profits and more employment, this increased performance varies highly between groups. PUM’s contribution to employment growth is higher in the tourism sector than in agriculture. Moreover, PUM contributes to higher sales increases in least-developed countries than in lower-middle income countries. Read the 'PUM impact report'.