It is a well-documented fact the two major global economic superpowers namely the United States of America and more recently the Peoples Republic China’s key to economic dominance found its roots in the development and formalisation of its infant industries. The nearly 27 million small businesses in the United States generate about 50% of the GDP.
They have also contributed to growth and vitality in several important areas of economic and socioeconomic development while studies have shown that in China, SMEs represent more than 90% of the enterprises in the country and also contribute over 60% to the GDP. Even though the two nations have parallel economic systems, both have realised the importance of SMEs for economic growth and employment stability.
If the recent media reports of companies gaining meteoric wealth seemingly overnight is anything to go by, the implications have been that it has eroded negatively into the philosophy of gradual, consistent and sustainable growth.
The basic principles of good management skills, competitiveness in pricing and robust marketing are becoming a lost art. The barometer is no longer the quality of the service provider and product but rather who you know and what percentage the cut will be under the table. Underhanded business practices and the psychological effects are still to be felt in our small and fragile economy.
It is not only the gap between the rich and the poor that is increasing but that of between small and big businesses in Namibia.
Our President, Hage G. Geingob encourages us to not only call challenges but to equally propose solutions, so here goes, if we are to effectively influence the growth of small businesses in Namibia, I strongly believe that we have to cast our net a little wider, less concentrated in the capital city and more into the regions. I am of the opinion that our regional constituency offices are underutilised and as such, a special committee or permanent department be created to deal with the challenges faced by small businesses and to provide solutions to those challenges. The training and retraining of SMEs on the aspects and trends of business management, including the understanding and drafting of business proposals and plans, are crucial.
The constituency office could also bear the responsibility of finding domestic and international markets for the SMEs. Another challenge to small business in pursuit of formalisation is location. We are conscious of the fact that our economic system is a bit more capitalistic than what our economist would lead us to believe.
Rentals of commercial real estate in prime locations are extremely expensive, which makes the graduation and access of small businesses into this market an elusive undertaking. Maybe the suggestions for an SME conference with all relevant industry players could address this particular challenge.
We should step back and recognise some of the government’s countless efforts and initiatives albeit with a pinch of salt. The Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade’s growth at home strategy is brilliant. The only drawback is that it prevents a lot of start-ups from participating because of some funding requirements and the definition of a start-up remains a relative terminology.
The other notable initiatives are the DBN credit guarantee scheme in partnership with our local commercial banks, the sustainable goals impact facility (SDGIF) and the recently launched Agribank women and youth loan.
In conclusion, as a nation, we should aim to create a healthy balance in the ratio between employment seekers and employment creators with the needle intentionally tilting more towards the latter. A vibrant entrepreneurial environment has the potential to contribute immensely to the GDP of our great nation.