Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
A PILOT programme has been launched to facilitate an upgrade and renovation of workplaces for small to media enterprises (SMEs) in Bulawayo.
If successful, the programme would be rolled out across the country.
Nssa is working with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and other United Nations (UN) agencies such as the World Food Programme, United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund to improve workplace safety for the informal sector players by implementing occupational safety and health (OSH) programmes.
In a recent interview after the launch of the pilot programme at the Bulawayo Chamber of SMEs complex housed at OK Mart complex in the city, ILO country director for Zimbabwe and Namibia, Ms Hopolong Phororo said: “Right now, we have just done the designs and we are still working on getting the tenders rolled out. So, we are now waiting to receive those budgets from various tenders.
“Once we do that, then I think we’ll be able to establish what is exactly the cost, which will be in but of course we don’t have a big budget. It will probably be US$100 000 or something around there.”
She said once the tenders have come in, hopefully in the next few weeks, there would be an effort to select the contractor to start the project.
The pilot project comes at a time when it has been observed that in most cases, SMEs are working under hazardous conditions.
When complete, it is hoped that the OK Mart SMEs complex in Bulawayo will have inclusive structural designs that would also accommodate people living with disabilities and nursing mothers, among others.
It is hoped that through this initiative, SMEs would be able to manage hazards at the workplaces.
“If we get this one (Bulawayo Chamber of SMEs OK Mart project) right, it will become a prototype to see how we can support the resource mobilisation because as ILO, we don’t have the resources but we’ll be able to bring in other partners,” said Ms Phororo.
Bulawayo Chamber of Small to Medium Enterprises vice-chairman, Mr Energy Majazi said the refurbishment of the complex would go a long way in availing increased working space for their members. At the moment, the OK Mart Complex houses 65 SMEs in different sectors that include manufacturing, clothing and textile as well as services.
“Through the renovations programme, there is going to be increased working space and this will see more players being accommodated at the complex,” he said.
Mr Majazi said the chamber will soon identify working spaces in other parts of Bulawayo, which would be considered for upgrading. He said the assistance from ILO started in March 2020 when the labour organisation contracted a consultant to do a needs assessment on local SMEs.
“The consultant was again asked to help the chamber to develop a business plan and thereafter a work plan, which is now being implemented,” said Mr Majazi.
“The renovations in progress are going to add value to SMEs work space and help in advertising as the working environment will also lure more clients,” he added.
The ILO initiative seeks to build resilience and improve SMEs’ occupational health and safety.
The pilot project is being developed under ILO’s SafeWork Programme paying special attention to awareness-raising of workplace dangers among informal economy workers and enterprises. — @okazunga.