Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Maun SMMEs struggle to take advantage of tourism near home

Though the Maun tourism value chain is thriving, poor marketing strategies and limited market access for their products continue to halt further growth of the Small Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) sector involved.

The Maun based SMME sectors benefitting from Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) consultancy are involved in manufacturing canvas ware, embroidery and safari transportation.

However, if the marketing challenges are not addressed, efforts to sustainably diversify the tourism sector to improve lifestyles and alleviate poverty; will be derailed through small profit margins.
According to LEA Communications Manager Bame Moremong, “Tourism is the core business in Maun in which a majority of people in business are mainly involved in, as such LEA chose to incorporate tourism as part of its four other sub-sector projects.”

LEA has done research on the value chains of the four sectors that are dairy farming, leather tanning, piggery and horticulture.

The organization is on a drive to sustain the tourism value chain in Maun to ensure that every service or product produced or offered for sale, there is integration of suppliers and sub- suppliers.

Speaking during a media tour in Maun last week, Moremong said LEA is looking beyond the obvious and establish niche opportunities Batswana can fill. “The tourism value chain in Maun is well established as we have both large and small players,” she said.

She highlighted that the major challenge their clients are still faced with are those of marketing and market access. In order for SMME’s to grow they need exposure. Though the SMME’s toured displayed buoyancy over their businesses the major challenge of market access and marketing continues to hamper their growth.

Another notable challenge is that the smme’s are still in their micro stages such that even if they have potential to supply the big companies they don’t have the capacity.

Thato Canvas which is owned by Ompatile Senwedi is one of the companies doing well. The company specializes in canvas products ranging from tents, chairs, bags, roof covers and seats covers. “The key challenge I’m faced with is competition; there are a lot of players in this industry and most of them are big companies,” said Senwedi. Thato Canvas supplies other SMME’s and a few big companies like African excursions, Echo Safaris, Council, Water Utilities Corporation.

Senwedi added that the paperwork required by Botswana Unified Revenue Authority (BURS) for tax clearance as well as the Local council pose a big challenge to them. “We are expected to move from different ministries and in most cases we don’t know how to fill in their requirements. I can spend the whole week moving from office to office to meet their requirements and this affects our productivity,” said Senwedi.

Another thriving SMME that was toured is the Mondits Enterprises, which specializes in embroidery. According to the owner Grace Ditsile, Mondits embroiders bags as well as t-shirts, shirts, towels and overalls outsourced from Thato Canvas. Ditsile revealed that market access continues to be challenge. Currently Mondits is only servicing the Maun market. In addition she revealed that competition is rife.

“I can handle big customers like wilderness Safaris but my biggest challenge is operational capacity,” said Ditsile.

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