Corporates urged to walk the talk on SMEs
In an e-mail response to questions, SMEs Compete Director Danny Meyer told the Economist on Wednesday that many large firms, including state owned enterprises (SOEs) or parastatals claim to support small enterprises, but they don’t always walk the talk when it comes to procurement of goods and services.
He also said large firms could do far better and be more creative when it comes to credit extension to small enterprises. “For example, this could be in the form of consignment stock and providing roll-over credit facilities,” Meyer said.
He, however, pointed out that failed small businesses should also look at themselves in the mirror and see how they have contributed to their own downfall.
“Of course the adage rings true. If one points a finger, you have three pointing back at you! So entrepreneurs are not blameless hence SMEs Compete’s focus on the jockey rather than on the horse i.e. the business owner and not necessarily on the business. Far too many emerging entrepreneurs are in a hurry to make money. They take on work and then fail to deliver or provide shoddy service. Money discipline and the lack of focus on one’s business and on making a success of that business often trips-up or becomes the downfall of an entrepreneur.”
SMEs Compete recently celebrated eight years of existence. The social entrepreneurship firm started operations on 01 March 2006, and over the years, the firm has assisted in excess of 2,000 entrepreneurs through business growth support.
But despite the many enterprises that the firm has assisted, Meyer remains humble. “The numbers might seem impressive measured by any standard, but there is no time to rest on our laurels. Namibia has in excessive of 30,000 small enterprises that need support in one form or another, to position their businesses to create wealth and jobs,” he said.
Besides lack of support from the corporate world, there are also a number of challenges faced by SMEs in Namibia. Meyer sums up the challenges:
“There are the known or visible ones like, for example, access to funding or working capital and lack of business skills and knowledge. However, other challenges are equally important and deserve redress sooner rather than later if Namibia is to unlock the entrepreneurial potential of this young nation.
“Among these challenges that entrepreneurs, emerging, established and novice encounter on a daily basis are access to affordable work space, access to realistically priced business support services such as accounting or bookkeeping, legal and insurance – short and long term.
“Then there is the high cost of doing business including communication and transportation costs faced by entrepreneurs. An absence of skilled staff resulting in SMEs taking on people often school leavers, training them until they become employable and then losing them to corporate firms who will entice people to join them with offers of high remuneration packages. Add to this government including local government or municipal bureaucracy and the unfriendly and unhelpful attitude displayed by far too many civil servants or officials with whom entrepreneurs have to routinely interact.”
The successor to a USAID-funded small and medium enterprise competitiveness enhancement programme (SMECEP) run in partnership with the Ministry of Trade & Industry (MTI) that ended in February 2006, SMEs Compete compliments the enterprise and entrepreneurial development programmes of MTI, other government departments and ministries, municipalities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and tertiary institutions.
SMEs Compete is headquartered in Windhoek and operates four offices that are strategically located around Namibia. Resources permitting, the company intends to have a presence in all 14 regions of the country in the future.