The Sunday News
Charleen Ndlovu, Sunday Business Reporter
SMALL to Medium Enterprises in Bulawayo have appealed to the Government and the city council to avail to them some of the city’s unused factories so that they can use them to boost their businesses.
Bulawayo has scores of unused factories that closed after the city suffered massive de-industrialisation post-2000. In an interview, Bulawayo Chamber of SMEs chairperson Mr Energy Majazi said the Government should consider helping small to medium companies since they have become the centre of economic activity in the city. He said council must look into the possibility of distributing some of the city’s idle factories as business stands to SMEs.
“Both the local authority and the Government must plant or give seed to SMEs who upon growth will support them through taxes and licences. The council requirement for them to allocate space for infrastructure development is proof of funding which in most cases is not available. Our proposed solution to infrastructure challenges is to be assisted to access idle factories, some of which are now an eyesore in the city. Some of the factories dotted around the city are now dirty and collapsing due to neglect. No money is required here but a regulation or policy, not necessarily robbing owners of such buildings,” he said.
Mr Majazi said adequate working space is an important factor in business.
“When you don’t have adequate space, production is also limited. Work space availability allows mass production giving rise to reduction of prices as SMEs will realise reasonable unit production cost as a result,” he said.
He added that SMEs needed their own tax bracket designed to encourage formalisation and growth.
“The current one size fits all tax regime is killing the impetus in SMEs. SMEs are a special group of entrepreneurs, there is 67 percent of revenue collections in Bulawayo alone. However, we bemoan SMEs do not get incentives from their contributions.
Tax regimes discourage formalisation because of their punitive taxes. If only the taxes department could be directed to offer tax holidays and reduced taxes for newly formalised SMEs or subsidised industrial stands. If this is done, tax base would grow and more money obtained as a result,” he said.
In an interview the Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs, Cde Judith Ncube said her office is working on coming up with a viable solution to address the issue of space for SMEs.
“The SMEs have mentioned some of the challenges that they are facing especially the issue of inadequate space and we are aware of the difficulties being faced by businesspeople during this time. We had the chance to propose to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce on the idea of having SMEs occupy some of the city’s deserted factories. However, IDBZ has showed an interest in assisting SMEs to acquire infrastructure, all they need to do is to come to our office and we discuss,” she said.
Meanwhile, Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni last week said that there is a readily available $2 million loan facility to capacitate small to medium enterprises (SMEs) through linkages with bigger businesses.
She also urged SMEs to make use of the loan facility to capacitate their businesses and address the challenges they are facing.