Exploring the SME sector
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) recorded a sizeable increase of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) between the years 2000 and last year. Of the more than 15 000 SMEs that were registered during this period, 605 were financed by commercial banks.
Current statistics reveal that a total number of 1 719 registered SMEs closed down during 2015 to 2016. “This necessitated debates among various scholars,” said Bank Windhoek’s Katutura branch manager, Josef Sheehama.
Sheehama presented findings on his study titled ‘Exploring Sustainable Economic Challenges and Opportunities Experienced by the Funded Small and Medium Enterprises at a Selected Commercial Bank in Namibia’, at the recently concluded Sustainable Economic Growth and Social Development Conference.
Overall findings revealed that SMEs were experiencing challenges that impeded their operation – access to finance, employee turnover and availability of affordable business premises.
The study’s findings on the socio-economic demographic data had a 100 percent response rate, 40 percent female and 60 percent male. The majority operated from the SME Incubator Centre in Windhoek. Forty participants out of a total of 70 specialised in the manufacturing and construction sector. Only eight conducted business in the education and training sector.
There are various sustainable opportunities available to SME owners. “Major employers of unskilled or semi-skilled workforce, need to be supported in order to recruit citizens, especially the youth,” said Sheehama.
There is also an essential need for monetary assistance from financial institutions.
The study provided recommendations that can serve as guidelines. Firstly, training programmes need to be strengthened in SME divisions. Topics such as managing work diversity, stress management and integration of technologies in businesses for improved performance, needs to be prioritised.
Secondly, stakeholders need to introduce leadership and management programmes.
The study concluded that, the majority of SMEs are in the manufacturing, construction and agricultural sector and that most of them are experiencing major economic challenges, such as access to finance, high employees turn over, lack of start-up capital, and management skills deficiency.
Sheehama said that in order to achieve sustainability, these issues should be addressed. He also pointed out that the education and training sector needs to be explored as they can contribute to the country’s economy.
Sheehama was part of a group of MBA students selected by economic professors from the University of Namibia (Unam) and the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). His study will soon be published on the International Journal on Current Research’s (IJCR) website.