If properly natured, small businesses can contribute immensely to the country’s economy, however, there are still challenges that face the sector.
To help address some of these huddles BOCCIM in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and its International Training Centre will host a workshop on effective crisis responses targeting SMMEs, which is scheduled for 2-3 February 2010 in Gaborone.
The workshop is designed to address BOCCIM member participants from agencies concerned with the development of SMEs, SME Associations and financial institutions whose mandate entails lending to SMEs as well as organisations providing business development Services to SME’s.
It is generally believed that given the right conditions and support there is a high potential that SMEs would contribute significantly in developing countries’ quest for economic diversification and employment creation.
Yet, in the case of Botswana there continues to be a loud outcry that this sector remains vulnerable and exposed to countless challenges in trying to be competitive and self-sustaining businesses.
Among the challenges faced by the SMEs included, lack of finance, prohibitive costs in acquiring and effectively utilizing appropriate technology and limited managerial skills as well as little or no business acumen.
Consequently, the sector suffers low productivity while the seeming inevitable influxes of well established foreign investors who apparently prove adequate to the demands of business render SME a casualty or victim of loose regulatory restrictions.
Maria Machailo-Ellis, Executive Director of BOCCIM said, “The challenges have now been amplified by the current economic crisis. Thus, as an organization which has the interests of SMEs in mind, we constantly try to ensure that the voices of SMEs are taken to national policy makers.”
The ILO adopted the Global Jobs Pact in June 2009, which is designed to guide and spur national and international policies aimed at stimulating recovery and to identify the need for coordinated policy options to ensure an enabling environment for SME development.
For that reason, according to Machailo Ellis, the ILO- BOCCIM sponsored workshop aims to review existing initiatives and analyze the different policy measures that can be taken to national level to support SMEs during the economic downturn.
This follows another two day workshop held in Sandton, South Africa by the ILO in collaboration with the SADC Employers Group with the express intent of determining the extent of the impact of the global economic crisis on the economies of selected countries, especially in the SADC region.
What seemed a common denominator in the findings about all the targeted countries was the imminent loss of employment which even seemed more like just a beginning of the worst to come.
Against that background, consensus was reached that Government and employers, as well as the workers, ought to find middle ground to devise a way of saving many jobs that stand to vanish into the economic mire that seems to have adversely impacted on the developing countries budgets.
Thus, in addition to considering the advantages as well as disadvantages of the different measures, including possible substantive subsidies to SMEs, support to entrepreneurship and self employment programmes, it is expected that new proposals for tax reduction, increasing credit flow and other financial opportunities to SMEs will feature prominently in the exchanges.
The anticipated outcome is therefore, a roadmap for action for the business community to endorse and recommend to government for appropriate implementation.
On account of the difference it might make, it stands to be seen what initiatives the local workers organizations like Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) will embark on to ameliorate the effects of the crisis on those who are lowly paid and the unemployed.