Business - Featured - Local - Top Stories - March 29, 2021

SMEs on decent working spaces

Tendai Bhebe (Bulawayo Correspondent)

The Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development is in partnership with Bulawayo Chamber of Small to Medium Enterprises (BCSMEs) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) for the refurbishment of the OKMART complex in Bulawayo which will accommodate more than 50 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Over the past decade, Zimbabwe has witnessed the emergence and growth of SMEs mainly due to the high levels of unemployment in the country and the growth of the informal sector.

The SMEs have mushroomed in various sectors of the economy ranging from farming to information and technology. Most of the small businesses are characterised by a small number of employees and limited finance.

Challenges to do with securing funding, regulation, payment of taxes and stunted growth are common among most SMEs. There has been also a major challenge of lack of adequate skills in the SMEs sector. Small businesses find it difficult to sell their products either due to poor packaging or marketing skills.

In an interview with BusinessMail, the Bulawayo provincial development officer in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Dingani Dlomo said SMEs’ poor working space has over the years impacted negatively on their prospects of keeping their enterprises as going concerns as well as attracting potential customers.

“We are trying to promote the growth of our members through securing proper working space. We have a partnership as a ministry it’s a tripartite relationship between the ministry, BCSMEs and ILO where we are hoping to refurbish the OKMart SMEs complex.

“If all goes well it should start in July, ILO has pledged funds. The complex may house 50 or more SMEs and remember we are talking of productive sector not just a service sector effect and we are aiming to offer descent places to meet international standards,” he said.

Most SMEs are not registered, with a recent survey carried out by FinScope Zimbabwe showing that only 15 percent of them were registered.

There have been numerous cries for the formalisation of the SMEs sector to be done so as to access external market benefits. He said working on descent spaces would also play a big part in enabling SMEs to formalize their operations.

Dlomo said the ministry was not in charge of allocating land but rather the local authority was responsible for it. “We have received a lot of criticism from people that we are responsible for allocating land for our SMEs especially the vendors.

But it’s not it as a ministry we wait as well for the Bulawayo city council as they are responsible for allocating space for them. The ministry has also tried to offer SMEs good working space environment we are waiting for tents to be shipped into the city as the site and everything is in order,” said Dlomo

Government is also looking forward to establishing SMEs incubation centres throughout the country to accelerate development of start-ups and fledging entrepreneurs to effectively impact on growth of the economy. President Mnangagwa launched the country’s first India-Africa incubation centre in Harare in February 2019.

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