SMEs key to unlocking Southern Africa’s economic potential, says Mauritian minister

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The Southern African Development Community, SADC, should develop a comprehensive programme to consolidate small and medium scale enterprises if SMEs are to play a key role in helping the region achieve economic growth, Soomilduth Bholah, Mauritius’ Business, Enterprise and Cooperatives minister, said.

In a keynote address during the opening of a joint SADC-ECA Adhoc Expert Group Meeting on the ‘Role of Small and Medium Enterprises in the Industrialisation Process in Southern Africa’, Bholah said the main thrust of such a programme would be to enhance the competitiveness of the SMEs, improve the business and regulatory environment, strengthen institutional support systems, promote technology transfers, industrial innovations and improve productivity.

“This has to be done if we recognize the fact that SMEs are key players to achieve economic growth in the southern African region,” he said.

“As we evolve in a fast-paced world, southern African countries have to harness ambitions and we should focus on the various ways to achieve our goals. Mauritius is leaving no stone unturned to conclude regional; and multilateral agreements with a view to further extend its commerce on the international front, whereby our SMEs will also be able to take part in global trade.”

Bholah said SMEs were indeed the engines that are more likely to drive economies and the ultimate stepping stone to industrialization; being responsible for signification employment and income generating opportunities as well as being a major driver of poverty alleviation and development. The SMEs, he added, are also a critical force in the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The minister said with a contribution of about 40 percent to Mauritius’ GDP and representing 54.6 percent of total employment, SMEs were expected to become a major pillar of the Mauritian economy.

To implement appropriate policies to support the SMEs, Mauritius adopted a 10-year master plan which is meant to be a game changer in the country’s economic development process.

The plan is based on five main objectives; improving SME competitiveness; fostering high growth potential SMEs; upgrading skills and job opportunities; improving value addition; and increasing market share.

For his part, Said Ademujobi, the Economic Commission for Africa’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, said the ECA will continue to work with SADC to promote structural transformation in Africa, industrialisation and private sector development. He said without the SMEs, there cannot be development or structural transformation in the region.

“We have to place emphasis on SMEs because they are the key drivers of inclusive and balanced growth, and have huge potential to enhance the industrialization process in the region if their entrepreneurial mode is nurtured,” Ademujobi said.

He added cooperation and partnerships were crucial if SMEs are to help address some of the issues affecting the socio-economic development of the region and applauded Mauritius for prioritizing its SMEs.

Mubita Luwabelwa, the SADC’s Policy, Planning and Resource Mobilisation director, said in Southern Africa, the MSMEs accounted for more than 90 percent of businesses, creating over 60 percent of employment opportunities.

“The role that SMEs play as engines of socio-economic growth in the region cannot be over-emphasised,” Luwabelwa said, adding the SMEs were a key element of the SADC’s Industrialization Strategy.

The main output of the AEGM will be a comprehensive report outlining issues and challenges and recommendations towards enhancing the ‘Role of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises in the Industrialisation Process in Southern Africa’, a best practice policy framework for industrial SME development in the region. 

– Sept. 21, 2018 @ 13:52 GMT |

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