Botswana’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can spur job creation and economic diversification despite challenges faced, so says junior minister at Minister of Trade and Industry Beauty Manake.
In a bid to help the SMEs grow, Manake says the Botswana government will anchor its strategy on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
According to Manake, AFCFTA provides an opportunity for SME’s to grow and have a significant impact to the future of the continent.
“I am confident that the full implementation of the agreement will enable SME’s to be catalyst to dynamic and healthy industrial development by contributing to provision of much needed jobs, income generation and ultimately poverty reduction,” says Manake.
When addressing attendees of the 5th prosperity Africa small business exporter’s conference in Gaborone Manake said that the recent government machinery rationalization which resulted in the establishment of the new Ministry of Entrepreneurship was tailored to coordinate all entrepreneurial development initiatives, including supporting SME’s in benefiting from the AFCTFTA.
Manake stated that the timing of the conference could not have been more perfect as most small businesses (SME’s) in the continent are returning with renewed vigor to re-build prosperity in all sectors of the economy across different levels of the business community.
“Small businesses are the heartbeat of market economies, employing a sizeable number of our youth and contributing directly and indirectly to the livelihoods of most of our populace.”
Through Parastatals such as the Local Enterprises Authority (LEA) and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA), the Botswana government says it will focus on the development of entrepreneurial development policy for SMEs.
Manake acknowledged that small businesses still face a myriad of challenges adding that most small businesses, often run by youth do not make it past the first 2 to 3 years, as they experience challenges even as opportunities seem to lie in the horizon.
“Common among these challenges include access to funding, limited management and business skills, low integration with the medium and large scale businesses, market access,” added Manake.
Manake said government signed the AFCFTA framework in 2018 to facilitate seamless border across the continent and increase competitiveness of products through elimination of tariffs and favorable terms for service trade.
“We believe that this event will unlock economic opportunities, develop critical reforms for policy engagement with the government and other stakeholders to enable local traders and business to benefit maximally. I wish to buttress our commitment to improving the ease of doing business particularly at the continental scale, with a view to Botswana businesses gaining access to over 200 million markets,” said Manake.
Business Botswana President Gobusamang Keebine stated that the event should serve to unlock the opportunities lying within the sector particularly after a difficult 2 year period.
“I want to believe that this event will help create a new path for our SME’s particularly after such a difficult period in which some found the path taxing to continue,” he said.
Keebine said even though challenges continue to exist in the path of SME’s, there is need to ensure persistence and courage in order to grow the sector.
He also said the conference sought to equip businesses start-ups, SMME’s and corporates with capabilities to compete continentally.