By Joyce Mukucha and Anyway Yotamu
Government has said the small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) sector is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy since it is contributing approximately 60 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This emerged at the 9th Edition of the Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) International Expo in Harare where sector players were urged to embrace technology to penetrate and increase visibility on the local and foreign market.
The expo running under the theme “Turnaround-Restructure-Transformation To Position SMEs in the Digital Economy” is aimed at promoting small business enterprises to network with potential partners as well as give them the opportunity to market their products and services to new markets locally, regionally and internationally.
Officiating the SMEs International Expo in Harare on the 24th of October 2019, on behalf of His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, Honourable Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri urged SMEs to take advantage of the growth of Internet and embrace digital tools usage in Zimbabwe to fully unlock the digital revolution.
She added that Government was committed to ensure that there is uptake and effective use of digital technologies by SMEs and entrepreneurs to assist the development of the sector.
“In response to the use of digital technologies in the country and indeed the world over, adoption of digital technologies by SMEs to enhance access to local, regional and global markets is pertinent to facilitate the growth and development of SMEs. The theme of this expo is important as it focuses on promoting digitalisation to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs to enable them to penetrate and increase their visibility on the local and export market.
“The use of these platforms has the potential to significantly reduce costs as they can attract customers at much lower cost than conventional marketing methods. I would like to assure you that Government fully supports your endeavours and is ready to render the necessary support to ensure that the SME International grows bigger and bigger each year. I encourage the SMEs in Zimbabwe to take this opportunity to exhibit at the 2020 edition of the SME International Expo and beyond to enhance the visibility of your businesses,” she said.
The sector has been said to have become dominant in a number of key supply chains at the time when big companies are scaling down due to the challenging economic environment.
However, there were challenges which include access to capital, appropriate policies and regulations, products standardisation among others that were negatively impacting on the sector’s capacity to meaningfully contribute to the economic development of the country.
Government through the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) is implementing various programmes to address the challenges to ensure that the sector takes a leading role in attracting investors from within Zimbabwe, across Africa and worldwide.
SME International Expo Director Mr Delight Makotose said though the sector was being affected by economic turbulence, it has managed to survive up to date with a number of start-ups coming up thereby attracting 160 exhibitors on the 9th edition.
He said that the 2019 Expo has recorded an increase in the number of women participants coming from all the 10 provinces dotted around Zimbabwe.
“We have incorporated women entrepreneurs to take and express their entrepreneur skills to the podium. This Expo has over 200 exhibitors and participants with some of them coming from as far South Korea, Dubai, India, South Africa, and Malawi among other nations.
“The sector has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception in 2011 into what it is today. The Professional SMEs Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PSCCI), Acting President, Marah Hativagone indicated that SMEs were being affected by huge challenges including lack of energy, water and fuel for economic sustenance,” he said.
“The way in which business is done by SMEs need to be changed and there is need to proffer solutions so that their efforts in building the nation’s economy can become viable. It is not effective to rely on blue-prints without full implementation, our nation will continue to lag behind in as much as growing economically is concerned,” Hativagone said.