Local entrepreneurs, in all fields including small businesses have been urged to collaborate in order to effectively compete with big companies.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Dorcus Makgato-Malesu, said at the introduction of Funeral Parlor Association of Botswana (FPAB) by the association’s President and Secretary General at the Ministry of Trade and Industry headquarters on Monday that SMMEs should compete so that they are not closed out of free market economy.
“We cannot afford to keep finding fault on the first bird that caught the fattest worms by being smart and exploring all possibilities of business prosperity in this open market by which our country monitors business,” Makgato-Malesu said.
“If small businesses do not cooperate so that their products can beef their muscle against business giants, then free economy is going to close them out of business,” she said, adding that the system has both pros and cons.
FPAB was formed in 2013 after it was discovered that funeral undertaking business is generally backward. It does not know under which ministry it falls as an industry that handles health issues-human remains- and a business entity. They do not know whether they fall under the Ministry of Health or Ministry of Trade and Industry. There are no standards, ethics, professionalism or code of conduct in the industry.
In his introductory remarks, the Association’s Secretary General, Bushie Mosala, had highlighted what they as association perceive to be monopoly caused by the marriage between the biggest Funeral parlor in the country, Lynn’s Funeral Parlor and the Botswana Life Insurance Company which he said deprived them business, as competitors.
“Botswana Life Insurance has bought shares in the parlors and that state now permits or makes them do as they like in the industry. They ensure clients claim all the due to them if the corpse is to be held by Lyn’s, failing which they ought to forfeit their claim due if a different parlor is handling the transaction,” he explained.
In response Minister Makgato-Malesu said from her point of view, the operational standards of the industry should be under the Ministry of Health. As for other business operations the minister said the industry goes under her Ministry.
On perceived monopoly she said it is, “Alleged monopoly that is brought about by collusion of business products that closes out other business competitors. As a business person I do not see it as monopoly. It is a smart move by a business person to gain volumes since business is about volume. But where monopoly is aggrieved we have the Competition Authority to which you can report so that it investigates and brings a solution. I am not the one to judge or mediate.”
She advised the association to consult with someone with legal knowledge to look through their document so that it sets convenient platform for negotiation. With its current contents the document is not convincing. She gave example of situation where chain supermarkets try to promote local dairy farmers who unfortunately fail to cater for its dairy products needs. The chain supermarkets ultimately invest on dairy farming, something that often triggers monopoly grievances.