By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Twenty-three small business operators from the 13 regions are to participate in the 8th International Malaysian International Food and Beverages Trade Fair. The team left for the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Minister of Trade and Industry, Immanuel Ngatjizeko, said the role of SMEs in the socio-economic transformation and development of the country cannot be underestimated. The sector provides income and employment to approximately one-third of disadvantaged Namibians. “The SME sector has potential to contribute to achieving important social objectives such as job creation, poverty alleviation and promotion of equitable distribution of wealth,” he said. Although it contributes meaningfully to the socio-economic well-being of the country, the sector faces many constraints. Role players in this sector lack finance, market access and appropriate technology, and have insufficient institutional support and advisory services. In collaborative efforts, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare decided to share the costs and facilitated the participation of 23 entrepreneurs engaged in food catering services on a small-scale basis. Participants are expected to learn new techniques of food preparation and preservation and the type of technology available elsewhere for enhancement of the production, quality and standards of food preparation. “The government’s intervention in organising this exposure visit for small-scale entrepreneurs in food catering is primarily aiming at empowering you as business women with management and entrepreneurial skills development,” Ngatjizeko added. He urged the participants to visit developmental projects related to biotechnological applications and which are agro-based. The trade fair has a profile of beverages, biotech products, canned products, Chinese herbs, confectionary, biscuits, pastries, convenience food, cured meats, daily products, delicatessen products, food ingredients, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, fresh and semi-preserved seafood and frozen food, among others. “I urge you to be curious, inquisitive and observant of the good business ideas worth replicating in Namibia,” he stressed. Ngatjizeko revealed government contemplates establishing food malls or stalls at centralised places with potential spin-offs for many business opportunities in the regions. Upon return, the minister said, the 23 women representing all 13 regions of Namibia should be seen as role-model entrepreneurs in sharing experiences with others in their communities. Facilitators intend to repeat this type of business mission in future but that will also depend on the availability of funds. The two ministries spent N$270 000 on air tickets. The trade fair starts on Thursday and ends Saturday this week.