SME’s now bedrock of economy- Deputy Minister

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Talkmore Gandiwa

The Small to Medium Enterprises sector is now the bedrock of the country’s economy, contributing 60% of the total Gross Domestic Product and an estimated 76% of total employment, a senior government official has said.

Addressing entrepreneurs at the small to medium enterprises 10th expo, Deputy Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Jennifer Mhlanga said the sector was playing a critical role in poverty reduction, job creation and income generation and had ignited the dynamism required to stir the development of the nation.

“Your presence is not only testimony of the heightened optimism you have in the future of our country, but equally shows the tenacity and value your business organisations accord to this event. It is my conviction that if we escalate this level of support exhibited at this fair to all spheres of the economy, our 2030 National Vision of transforming into an upper middle income economy will surely be surpassed,” she said.

However, Mhlanga said although government was encouraged by the growth of the sector, it also acknowledged the challenges faced by these small to medium enterprises.

“The sector is still constrained by gaps particularly in accessing finance, workspace, markets, technology, business know-how and multiple levies.” Mhlanga said.

She noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated the challenges as it restricted normal business activities following imposition of regulations to reduce transmission of the disease at work places.

Government has introduced the National Development Strategy 1, and National Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Policy (2020-2024) in addressing the challenges of the SMEs to ensure that the sector takes a leading role in the development of the country.

The policy will ensure SMEs have access to finance through institutions such as SMEDCO, Women’s Micro Finance Bank, Women Development Fund and SME windows established by various financial institutions.

“In addition, the formation of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOS) is helping communities to pool resources together for onward lending to members and providing business and technical skills training to equip SMEs to manage and grow their businesses.” Mhlanga said.

She said government was also developing workspaces for SMEs in towns and business centres around the country.

“Currently works are on-going in Gweru, Gwanda and Chikomba for factory shells and vendor marts,” the Deputy Minister said, adding government was promoting access to markets for SMEs by facilitating participation at local, regional and international exhibition platforms.

A total of 170 exhibitors and participants participated at expo with local exhibitors physically displaying their products and services while foreign exhibitors participated virtually.

Foreign exhibitors came from countries such as the United Kingdom, Senegal, Italy, China, United States and South Africa among others. This year’s Expo was held under the theme, “entrepreneurial spirit, sustainable Strategy, modern vision for business growth”.

Mhlanga said the dynamic business environment we are operating in requires business people to have that positive entrepreneurial spirit which is an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change.

The Expo which has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception in 2011 has also shown
opportunities in networking with potential partners in their areas of business.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) is this year, once again, targeting to register at least 35 000 businesses in the SMEs sector as efforts intensify to increase revenue collections from the (SMEs) sector.

This will ensure more businesses, especially in the largely informal SMEs sector, contributing towards the country’s revenue collections. As of the prior year 2020, the tax authority achieved a total of 21 643 new registrants against the target of 35 000.

Recently ZIMRA said various measures, which include but not limited to the following were put in place to ensure that more informal businesses are registered and also contributed their fair share to the fiscus. These include setting up of SMEs section within the authority to take care of such small clients, client education as well as engaging informal businesses encouraging them to register

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