Business - COVID-19 - Featured - Local - Top Stories - March 18, 2021

SMEs appeal for assistance due to Covid-19 effects on their operations

By Tendai Bhebe (Bulawayo Correspondent)

Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are appealing to Government and other stakeholders’ assistance as they continue quantifying their losses induced by the Covid-19 lockdowns.

In 2021 National Budget Statement, an allocation of ZWL$1 billion was set aside for supporting empowerment programmes for SMEs, youths, artists and sports, through respective financial institutions such as Empower Bank, Zimbabwe Women Microfinance Bank, People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB) and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Corporation (SMEDCO).

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 have been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We really had a tough time in terms of managing the situation as you may well know that the stakeholders, the clients who are the real SMEs looked to us for assistance. You remember very well that there was a time when business had to open they needed to be cleared and have a letter. We were expected to embrace them and see that they are back at work.

“The impact of lockdown to our SMEs has been so hard because the SMEs especially the informal sector the vendors in particular these people are almost surviving from hand to mouth a minute out of revenue generation is a disaster to them. They need that money to be flowing almost every hour because they get it they spend on food and spend it on all those essentials,” he said.

Dlomo noted that the ministry has tried by all means to register some SMEs but some are still having challenges as they could not register as per requirements.

“We did try to clear the few that we managed to clear those who came for clearance and produced the requirements, many of them are still registered. Of course we do have people who are still having challenges on registering. Those who registered we did our best but again we have the problem of devolution. You send 80 people the response not all of them will be cleared. In business these days we are crying for a flat bureaucracy. We are appealing for moral and financial assistance from the government and other stakeholders,” Dlomo said.

Dlomo further noted that they received cushioning funds from the government but the process of acquiring the funding was restrictive.

“We did receive funds from the government it was ZWL$400 million upon scrutiny of the requirements that were there we found out that the requirements were very restrictive. Our funding came through Zimbabwe Women Microfinance Bank (ZWMB) so they had a funding for about 5000 micro and small enterprises. I need to admit that we had minor challenges in terms of accessing some of the funding. People who had forwarded their names through associations for that funding the last time we had only disbanded about 3007 Netone lines and not everyone has access to those lines.

“We haven’t managed to get feedback from ZWMB to find out how many came through to collect lines. The second funding was from ministry of social welfare up to now people are collecting lines there because the lines came through our office we distributed about 1 100 lines. The total lines dispersed as of November last year which we returned them some to ZWMB and some to the ministry of social welfare they were 13 900 netone simcards,” he said.

Meanwhile, a quick survey done last year by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development to appreciate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on SMEs showed that 59 percent of SMEs indicated that they were having challenges in paying salaries due to the pandemic.

Around 57 percent of operators indicated that they would require social grants for them to be able to continue operating and also for employees whom they will not be able to continue paying. A total of 32.5 percent indicated that they may not be able to recover fully as business from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, while 76.9 percent highlighted that they would require Government support in terms of funding for them to be able to fully recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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