Tuesday, October 19, 2021

SMEs urged to look across the borders for market

Botswana’s Small Medium and Macro Enterprises (SMMEs) have been urged to fully exploit the international trade agreements in reaching the outside markets.

This was said by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI) Peggy Serame as she officiated at this years’ Local Entreprise Authority SMME Pitso in Gaborone this Thursday.

SMMEs which are often regarded as the engines of any country’s economy; face hurdles to survive due to many challenges such as lack of access to markets and lack of financing to grow, which are major.

In January 30th 2018, Botswana signed the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) Agreement which consists of 26 countries of the three regional Economic Communities of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Commission (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) here in Gaborone.

The TFTA served as a building block for the completion of the Continental Free Trade Area which later saw 44 African countries signing the agreement in mid March in Rwanda, Kigali.

Botswana became one of the 10 countries that did not sign the Kigali agreement, including South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Burundi, Eritrea, Benin, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau.

Serame however, revealed that as Botswana, “we are currently negotiating continental free trade area agreement.”

The establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area will result in a unified market of over 1,2 billion people with a combined gross product of over US$3 trillion.

Botswana also has the USA’s AGOA agreement where more than 50 product lines are available to Batswana traders to exploit. Shockingly, unfortunately at this point in time none of Batswana traders are selling to that market.

Serame expressed with concern this week that, “in the past atleast there were eight local companies which were exporting to the US through AGOA, and currently there is none. We have a market there, we need to enter these markets. LEA, BOBS, BNPC should facilitate SMMEs to ensure that they penetrate these markets.” The above mentioned stakeholders have also been urged to refine their services provided and be responsive to the needs of the business community.

Earlier when signing the TFTA Agreement in late January former MITI Minister Vincent Seretse, outlined veterinary vaccines; pharmaceutical products; electrical and machinery products; plastics products; salt and salt products; carpets and other textiles floor covering as among Botswana’s local products identified as having export potential under the agreement.

The Tripartite FTA agreement has the potential to boost trade in Africa and accelerate development by creating a huge single market of about 700 million people with an estimated gross domestic product of well over US$1.4 trillion.

Botswana became the 22nd country to append its signature to the agreement which was launched by the Heads of States of the COMESA-EAC-SADC FTA Member States on 10th June, 2015 at Sharm el-Shaik in Egypt. The TFTA aims to boost intra-African trade through the creation of a wider market, increased investment flows, enhanced competitiveness and development of cross-regional infrastructure.

Meanwhile, MITI is also currently revising the SMME policy and looking to have a national entrepreneurship policy.  Serame is hopeful that this will be presented in the July parliament session. The aim for the revision is to not only focus on SMMEs alone but cover other sectors of the economy as a whole. She also urged the business community to support each other.

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