By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Although the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector in the country has seen considerable growth over the past fifteen years, there is still a need for local entrepreneurs in this sector to have much-needed skills-based training. Without any knowledge of how to draw up a bankable business plan and technical skills in how to run a successful business, many in the SME sector are still struggling to stay steadfast on their feet. This situation is further compounded by limited access to funds from banking institutions, especially when there’s a lack of an efficient and effective business proposal. As a result, joint efforts by NedBank Namibia and the Polytechnic of Namibia resulted in the graduation ceremony of 26 SME local entrepreneurs in Windhoek on Thursday. In an effort to boost tailor-made products and services, Nedbank pledged an amount of N$345 000 to the Centre for Entrepreneurial Development of the Polytechnic of Namibia in October last year. This was done to facilitate a three-year Nedbank SME Development Project which last Friday gave graduates working in various disciplines a chance to boost their businesses even further. These disciplines, amongst others, ranged from those involved in running hair salons, printing, architecture and building construction. Through the course, the entrepreneurs were assisted with enhancing their financial management practices to plan ahead in acquiring the much-needed capital. The three main modules were bookkeeping, financial planning and control and managing a small business. In his welcoming speech, Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia Dr Tjama Tjivikua said although the SME sector improved over the years by contributing 12 percent to the gross domestic product and provides 20 percent of the country’s employment opportunities, there is room for growth. “The success can be higher through training, where we look at skills based on knowledge,” said Tjivikua, adding that the partnership with Nedbank now bears fruits for the participants. Echoing the same sentiments, Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications at Nedbank, Rector Mutelo, said the main objective through this SME Development Project is to reduce poverty, employment creation, economic empowerment and stimulating and sustaining economic growth. It is only in this way that the sector can grow. In light of this, Mutelo urged the graduates to use their newly acquired skills to venture into new opportunities. “Entrepreneurs need to become innovative and grab one of the many opportunities available. The game is about making money and injecting it into the economy and for Namibians to become well off,” explained Mutelo. The Nedbank SME Project is therefore seen against the backdrop of progress, success, development and empowerment of the people. Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Development Albin Jacobs added that there are “many people with technical skills out there but who need financial assistance. The crux of the matter is that small business people have to know how to put up a bankable business plan.” For most of the graduates who received their certificates, this was a remarkable achievement where they can now put their foot in the door with a bankable business plan. “This was a stepping stone or rather an eye-opener in directing my business in the right way. Now I have so much control over my business,” said Flory Maletzky, who’s running a printing business for the past two and half years. SME entrepreneur Mary Muhungo said this is an ideal incentive for her to re-start her hair salon, which was dormant for the past four years. “The training was very good for me. In most cases, it normally happens that a bank sometimes gives you money, but does not help you in how to run the business, so this course was like a dream come true for me,” said Muhungo with a smile. Nedbank Namibia will grant N$115 000 each year to the SME Development Project, while The Polytechnic of Namibia will provide the necessary training.