THE Minister of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni, says provision of adequate workspace for small businesses must be a priority in response to growing informalisation of the economy.
Although the Government policy is to ensure that anyone doing business, including the informal sector, is provided for in terms of facilitating working space through local government arms, the minister admits there are gaps in provision of this service.
“The issue of SME workspace is something that concerns the ministry very deeply. There has been a lot of informalisation in which many of people have gone to sell in undesignated areas,” said Dr Nyoni last week while engaging with legislators in Parliament.
“As I speak, the ministry has a policy that was passed last year to make sure that provision of work space for SMS’s is prioritised so that we coordinate all the ministries concerned.
“We are also working on a paper that we are going to mobilise other ministries to ensure that SMEs are provided for work space.
“Needless to say, it is very important that we take care of them, especially that the rains are coming, to ensure that they are housed somewhere where they can market or produce in a dignified way.”
Dr Nyoni said Parliament support was crucial in driving a programme that ensures SMEs are taken care so as to buttress their huge contribution to the economy.
She urged the private sector to also come on board, noting that the provision of work space for SMEs was not the responsibility of her ministry alone.
“There are stakeholders that are part of us and we are coordinating so that the situation improves,” she said.
During the debate legislators expressed concern over the exposure of many SMEs, including registered players, to hazard risks such as fire and natural disasters due to overcrowding and sought clarity on what facilitation the Government could make to assist them.
“That is regrettable that a lot of SMEs are so crowded and they end up having fires in their premises. We’re encouraging SMEs to take insurance policies so that if something like that happens the insurance can also assist them,” said Dr Nyoni in response.
“However, that not being the case for most of them, we encourage the local authorities to work speedily to ensure that they are assisted.
“If they would have had the infrastructure built by themselves, we encourage them to go to those that can help them.
For instance, SMEDCO can assist and also the Women’s Bank can assist them to rejuvenate their premises.”
However, some legislators highlighted that SMEs were facing difficulty in accessing bank loans due to strict collateral requirements and urged the Government to intervene.