The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE Bulawayo Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is working on growing the number of agribusiness in the sector that can play a critical role in achieving food security in the country.
In Zimbabwe, agriculture plays a major role in economic growth and development, as the sector remains one of the most lucrative business industries. It is one of the sectors that is expected to play a critical role in transforming the country to an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
Responding to questions from Sunday News Business, Bulawayo Chamber of SMEs chairperson Mr Coustin Ngwenya said they were working on increasing the number of members in agribusiness.
He, however, said lack of access to finance and unavailability or poor access to foreign currency had to be dealt with as they could hinder the growth of SMEs in agribusiness.
“In 2022 we want to develop and increase the number of members in agribusiness. The Bulawayo Chamber of SMEs will need to increase members especially in peri-urban farming and promote horticulture.
“Horticulture is one of the country’s largest agricultural export earners with production of horticultural crops mainly conducted close to major urban centres, and along major highways connected to urban settlements both at large and small scale,” said Mr Ngwenya.
Mr Ngwenya’s sentiments come at a time when the Government is working on establishing a Horticulture Export Revolving Fund to the tune of US$30 million in line with the Horticulture Recovery and Growth Plan.
In terms of other key developments for 2022, Mr Ngwenya said they were working on identifying lucrative markets for the SMEs that could help them get more resources and lead to growth.
“With regard to financial linkages, SMEs need to be financed to expand their businesses. We will link them to banks, micro-finance institutions and donors. Also, for credit schemes, we will try to engage financial institutions to create loans for SMEs and especially long-term ones. We need to finance short term activities like order-financing,” he said.
Mr Ngwenya said this year there was a need to create systems where SMEs get inputs or materials at a more economic rate.
He said the key component to reducing unfair competition by informal firms, SMEs had to be formalised and ensure they were registered with the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ) and local authorities.
“There will be a need to lobby Government and local authorities for conducive legal and operating environment as we work on establishment of SMEs association structures. This will enhance management of the SMEs and cluster systems will also ensure that representation is more efficient,” added Mr Ngwenya.
He said as SMEs work on improving production and ensuring safety of personnel, equipment, products and quality improvement to product and services, they were in need of good and conducive space to operate from.
Mr Ngwenya said they were going to capacitate SMEs with capacity building trainings so as to develop their skills (leadership, management and production).
He, however, said they were in need of Government and other players’ interventions, as SMEs continued to face challenges.
“The Covid-19 pandemic disruptions continue to be the order of the day for SMEs, coupled with poor access to good markets, skills inadequacy, limited knowledge in management, poor networking, non-formalisation/informality leading loss of opportunities and shortage of inputs or materials are among some of the challenges SMEs face,” he said.
Mr Ngwenya said there was a need for interventions to address challenges which included travelling long distances looking for inputs or materials, unconducive legal environment/by-laws, poor credit worthiness of SMEs and in-availability/poor access to foreign currency.
Official data show that there are over 60 000 registered SMEs in Zimbabwe, which contribute up to 60 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
These SMEs operate in diverse sectors, such as textiles, agribusiness, information and communications technology (ICT), and construction.