Emerging AI opportunities for MSMEs

Kwami Ahiabenu ll
4 min readMar 4, 2024


Recent advancements in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as innovations in machine learning, increased availability of data, and growing algorithmic efficiency coupled with faster computer power means, AI is becoming mainstream in the operations of businesses. AI systems are enabling significant effectiveness and efficiency in business conditions, operations, and practices, therefore, large companies and entities are spending millions of dollars to set up and run myriads of AI applications in key areas across production, administration, accounting, procurement, supply chain, marketing, advertising, human capital management, and governance functions.

While such investments in AI systems provide these large entities with the platform to reap numerous advantages, at the bottom of the pyramid, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) often lag behind in the race to leverage AI technologies. The good news, all is not lost for these MSMEs, since there are a lot of emerging AI opportunities for MSMEs to take advantage of. Overall, MSMEs’ adoption of AI is different, since they rely on AI built into existing systems as opposed to large entities that mostly deploy bespoke AI applications. For the most part, MSMEs rely on external AI expertise instead of having full-time in-house experts since they cannot afford them.

Also, MSMEs tend to consume AI solutions through Cloud computing-based Software as a Services (SaaS) and Machine learning as a Service (MLaaS) models which is a far more cost-effective approach.

There are a lot of emerging AI opportunities for MSMEs that are relatively affordable, easy to deploy, and maintain. Thus, not being able to afford a bespoke solution does not take the MSMEs from the race. First, the new AI system can enable MSMEs to automate administrative tasks such as processing incoming customer orders via an AI-powered system instead of spending man hours processing those orders thereby freeing resources for higher value-added tasks.

For example, it is now possible for MSMEs to set up AI chatbots to enable interactive relationships with their customer base. Second, AI can help MSMEs to automate business forecasts using real-time data, they are therefore able to better predict customers’ orders more adequately. In this direction, AI can support MSMEs collect, manage, and process data needed to run advanced trend analysis.

Third, AI can support MSMEs significantly in the area of managing human capital including skills management, job placement, and ensuring the capacity of staff is put to good use.

Fourth, a lot of MSMEs do not have access to finance, which remains a major stumbling block to the growth of most MSMEs. The persistent challenge of lack of credit facilities for MSMEs is due to the small size of their loan requests and more importantly the fact that conventional credit scoring mechanisms do not work well with MSMEs since they do not have adequate records of their transactions in the credit scoring database system. AI systems can help by providing a conduit for banks to access better, timely, and real-time data on MSMEs operations which can support better credit processing, credit monitoring, enhanced compliance, and improved risk management, thereby increasing the availability of credits for MSMEs.

Furthermore, AI systems can support the creation of product and service innovations by MSMEs by enabling better feedback from customers in a cost-effective manner which can be translated into the provision of new services and products that meet the peculiar needs of their customer base. Lastly, MSMEs can benefit greatly from process improvement and optimization through the deployment of AI solutions. AI can help solve the problem of production defects, logistics challenges, production errors, poor inventory, and workload management leading to cost reduction, and increased sales and profits.

Although there are a lot of opportunities for MSMEs in terms of the adoption of AI, smaller businesses have to grapple with a lot of challenges and barriers such as a lack of capacity to collect data, a lack of data culture; a lack of awareness and education about what AI can offer, lack of skill sets needed to run AI systems, high initial investment costs, inability to calculate returns on investment in AI solutions and little visible evidence that AI can support transformational agenda for MSMEs.

Further, the complexity of AI systems including the tendency for over-reliance on biased data and limited transferability of AI solutions from one environment to another means a lot of MSMEs face an uphill task in harnessing the full potential of AI solutions. Also, Responsible Artificial Intelligence (RAI) is now recommended as a mechanism to deploy AI in a legally and ethical acceptable manner, however, most MSMEs cannot create and implement an RAI governance framework.

Nonetheless, AI solutions can provide a lot of benefits for first adopters, however, Laggards may experience low or no benefits, therefore it is imperative for MSMEs to join the ranks of first adopters so that they stay ahead of the curve.

Kwami Ahiabenu, II (Ph.D.) is a Tech Innovations Consultant
E-mail: Kwami@mangokope.com

Originally published at https://www.myjoyonline.com on March 4, 2024.