Programme plans to reduce SME infant mortality

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WINDHOEK – The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) this week conducted a one-day workshop to kick-start the rollout of its Enterprise Development Programme (EDP).

The programme will be implemented in NCCI branches country-wide and in various local authority areas, specifically targeting the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with a view to make a meaningful impact on the diversification of the sector’s economic activities and employment creation efforts. The workshop was attended by most of NCCI’s branch administrators and all of its EDP specialists.

The EDP was developed following a NCCI membership satisfaction survey of 2012, which identified poor capacity within the SME sector as a serious impediment to business growth.

In the survey NCCI members recommended that the chamber embarks on a capacity building programme for the SME sector.
While the total budget for 2015 for the EDP is N$1.5 million, the NCCI said that ideally it would require about N$7 million to implement the programme across the country.

The NCCI currently makes use of United States of America Peace Corps volunteers to assist with the implementation of the EDP and says it is receiving more and more support from the private sector.

“Of great concern has been the business infant mortality rate, which we think is very high. It should be improved so that more and more start-ups succeed to become competitive and profitable in the long term. We therefore developed the EDP as an enabling vehicle for stimulating growth within this critical sector of our economy and to ensure that we bring down the business infant mortality rate. We also envisage through our EDP to contribute towards a more vibrant, competitive and growing SME sector in our economy,” said Tarah Shaanika, chief executive officer of the NCCI, during the opening of the workshop.

Shaanika added that it has been proven the world over that a strong and vibrant SME sector can drive economic growth and wealth creation.

He noted that SMEs can create jobs faster if they are given sufficient space to innovate and grow.

“We believe that this sector has a critical role to play in our industrialization efforts and in driving our Growth at Home Strategy. It is very crucial therefore that this sector is developed and supported through policy and programme interventions, which can provide a very strong foundation for new enterprises to emerge and for the existing ones to expand. We need many enterprises that are growing and that are able to compete locally and in foreign markets,” said Shaanika.

The NCCI chief continued that while foreign direct investment is crucial in fuelling growth and expanding the economy, greater effort needs to be made in terms of both policy reforms and developing programmes which facilitate and support the growth of small and medium enterprises to encourage faster growth and diversification in the sector.

“SMEs are the pillars of our economy and everything we can do must be done to ensure that these pillars are strengthened. The current challenges facing our SMEs include access to funding, access to skills, inadequate support from the market, outdated legislation as well as poor access to modern and competitive technologies,” said Shaanika.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry currently has numerous instruments which provide direct support to SMEs including the Equipment Aid Scheme, the Industrial Modernisation Programme, industrial parks and feasibility and business plan support.

According to Shaanika, the NCCI’s EDP was designed to fill existing support gaps and will specifically address capacity building through training and mentorship and market development for SME products, both of which have been identified as key challenges facing the sector.
NCCI’s branches will therefore schedule and organize training sessions for SMEs in their areas of jurisdiction, targeting skills development in identified areas through regular training need assessments. Such training will be conducted by EDP specialists with the support of partners with capacity to deliver training in specific areas.

For 2015 the NCCI has a target of 500 SMEs to be supported with training country-wide. “We would like to draw the 500 from all our fourteen regions and the deployment of our EDP specialists has been done in a manner that can cover the whole country,” explained Shaanika.

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