Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Business Reporter
THE Government is working on ensuring the growth and sustainability of Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as it forges ahead to create an environment which enables them to effectively participate in the mainstream economy as the country’s big firms’ fortunes continue to slide.
Small to Medium Enterprises and Co-operatives Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni said the country’s SMEs sector has over the last decade contributed significantly to the provision of productive employment opportunities, generation of income and poverty eradication.
“SMEs have done tremendously well. We had set the first five years in building and educating them about entrepreneurship, another five years growing them, with the others falling while others managed to pick themselves up and another five years saw some of the small growing to medium,” she said.
Minister Nyoni said SMEs could become a major contributor to employment.
“With Government having spent years of sowing entrepreneurship in the minds of Zimbabweans, showing people that if you want to end poverty you have to create your own enterprise to generate your own wealth, for 2017 we will be working on consolidation and growth of the SMEs that have been created in the past years. We will also be working on the sustainability of the established SMEs, such that they grow sustainably,” she said.
Minister Nyoni said the Government had channeled a lot of resources towards training people on a number of entrepreneurship skills over the years with 27 000 SMEs having undergone schooling in their related trades last year.
“In 2017 we will be setting up what we call Virtual Business Incubation. We will also be working on improving workspace after we realised that SMEs have limited workspace. We are urging local authorities to avail more premises for SMEs. This will also help the formalisation of SMEs,” she said.
As the Government explored options to broaden the tax base, the SMEs and Co-operative Development Ministry requested a resource envelope of $32 million from Treasury to formalise unregistered and non-compliant small businesses.
“As for funding, as the SMEs we are happy that in the latest Mid-Term fiscal policy the Minister (Patrick Chinamasa) made it easy for SMEs to get the funding that they require in the form of the formalisation of SMEs with the payments they make being ploughed back to them. In the past SMEs have been complaining that local authorities always take from them but without giving back,” said Minister Nyoni.
Meanwhile, Minister Nyoni heaped a lot of praise to housing co-operatives saying they have contributed immensely towards ensuring that thousands of home seekers are proud owners of houses in various parts of the country.
“Housing co-operatives are doing very well contributing towards the turnaround of the economy, of course there are a few bad apples. However, the housing co-operatives are autonomous legal entities that can be sued or that can sue when there is a problem.
“Since 2010 housing co-operatives have built 94 000 houses for the ‘poorest of the poor’ and of those 46 000 are at various stages of completion. They are over 3 000 housing co-operatives and they constitute 83 percent of the membership in co-operatives,” she said.