The local business industry applauded and welcomed the assistance offered by a Dutch organization called PUM whose objective is to assist local small and medium enterprises with technical expertise.
This emerged at a recent breakfast meeting in Francistown at which PUM local representative in the northern parts of Botswana, Palalani Moitlhobogi, together with the organization’s country coordinator, Nico Bouman, presented the PUM program to the business community.
At the presentation, it emerged that PUM is a private institution that is funded by the Dutch government and the Dutch Employer Organization. The main objective of PUM is to promote private sector development in places like Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East to provide expert advice to different small and medium enterprises.
PUM assigns tailor made personnel to these areas on request from individual companies through their representatives to provide specialist knowledge and expertise which may not be readily available locally.
“It is important to note that PUM provides tailor made support from retired experts who have acquired experience over the years in those specific areas of operation ranging from engineering to laundry operations,” said Moitlhobogi.
“If you need assistance in your bakery, we will provide you with an expert baker from Holland. Our assistance is tailor made for your request,” he added.
PUM has over 4000 experts who carry out an estimated 2000 projects per annum. These experts cover a whole arena of industry operations including agriculture, health care, vocational education, and environment and government services.
It emerged from the meeting that PUM was actively involved on a consultancy basis when Mmegi, a local newspaper, was converted into a daily.
PUM’s objective is to help foreign business and organizations to be globally competitive so as to improve development in their respective countries and to create more employment opportunities.
Most importantly, PUM wants to create a connecting link between local industry and the business and industry in the Netherlands.
PUM also organizes seminars and courses for participants in the countries in which they are active. It may also send staff of customer companies for courses in the Netherlands.
Though they welcomed the PUM initiative, the business community expressed concern that the organization had misfired when it emerged that companies have to have been in operation for a minimum of two years to be eligible for assistance. All speakers who contributed at the seminar said that the greatest challenges faced by small and medium enterprises in Botswana are usually at the start up phase and most of such companies fold within a year. They, therefore, felt that PUM should provide assistance at this very crucial phase if it was to be really effective.
Apart from being in operation for a minimum of two years, it also emerged that applicant companies must be locally owned and be classified as small, micro and medium enterprises. Subsidiaries and multinationals are not eligible.
The company should have a staff complement of a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 750 people.
PUM is reserved for those companies that cannot afford to pay commercial external consultants and ceases to provide assistance once it has been ascertained that the receiving company can afford to pay external consultants.
Local entrepreneurs also welcomed the fact that PUM does not expect any payment for their services. PUM caters for the transportation of the expert to and from the destination but the recipient must pay for the maintenance of the expert like local transport, accommodation, living expenses for the duration of the stay. No other payments are made to PUM or to the visiting expert.
Moitlhobogi explained that applications for assistance, complete with the company profile and a detailed explanation of exactly what assistance is needed, must be routed to the organization through the local representative. The local representatives are Moitlhobogi, in the north, and Ernst Engels in the southern parts of Botswana.
In assessing the application for assistance, the cost of a mission is weighed against the expected results to analyze if the project will bear fruit.
Many local entrepreneurs also expressed concern that PUM does not provide funding but only technical support. They expressed disappointment with the local banking industry which they said shuns them, saying that with assistance from PUM they could be able to borrow much needed funds.
Also present at the breakfast meeting were local organizations like CEDA and LEA, which also promised to make a concerted effort to avail the services of PUM to their clients.