Entrepreneurs’ round table enlightens youth SMEs

15 September 2017
Author   J.W. ASHEEKE
On Tuesday, SMEs Compete hosted the second session of the Entrepreneurs Roundtable (ERT) at the Namibia Football Association (NFA) Girls Centre in Katutura.  The first session was held in August. 
The ERT provides an opportunity for youth already in or with a desire to venture into business to learn from seasoned entrepreneurs. 
With recent Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) data claiming that the country faces over 43 percent unemployment of youth between the ages of 16 and 35, an SME development training programme is a timely and relevant intervention.
Funded by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), this SMEs Compete event invited a panel of SME entrepreneurs to address a group of about 40 youth in business. 
The panel included: Navin Morar, Chelsea Fashions and property developer, Carol-Jean Rechter, Managing Director of Joe’s Beer House, Gwen Finis, GFG Slasto Supplies, Albertina Amupolo, Nepety Trading Enterprises, Bernadette and Martha Asheeke of Grandma’s Cookies.
Questions from the youth attending the event focused on the challenges in obtaining registration forms, finding loans and courting sponsors for events, what is an investor vs what is a bank loan, trouble shooting clients who complain about the products delivered and other items. 
The young people involved were engaging and informed about their own endeavours and the challenges they face.
Panellist Finis said, “The ERT is important for other people to learn from our experiences.  At the end of the day we learn from each other.  Networking is very important so that we can see if we can do business with other entrepreneurs.”
Economic times are hard and Government continues to freeze civil service jobs, delay payment on invoices for work done by SMEs, and cancels tenders for small businesses.  The existence of a Procurement Act that now regulates tender procedures and forces agencies and ministries to streamline selections of service providers, pressures SMEs to be even more organised, attend to administration and accounting, and focus on business stability as well as business development.
Danny Meyer, head of SMEs Compete, reiterated that job creation must remain a priority in Namibia.  He said that small businesses play the major role in employment in Namibia. 
“Government does not create jobs, the private sector creates jobs.  Government has its role to create the climate for job creation,” Meyer said.
Theopolina Shingenge, an attendee at the ERT, stated that she appreciated hearing the first hand experiences of the panellists and learned from the opportunity of asking questions. 
“I am excited to have the chance to hear from more successful entrepreneurs.  For my SME, I am a motivational speaker for high school girls.  I talk to them about taking responsibilities for themselves and building themselves up into what they can be.  Youth need to take all opportunities available.  Getting jobs is hard; affording higher education and training is also expensive.  So, knowledge about what it actually takes to get things moving in your life and career is invaluable,” Shingenge said.
Claudine Mouton of SMEs Compete reviewed the main points of the event.
“SME development is important because they are the biggest creator of jobs.  The biggest challenge is always said to be access to finance.
“Too many SMEs frustrated with being unable to find funds to start up their businesses say, ‘the banks won’t give us money’ but of course, banks never give money to anyone.  That is wrong thinking to expect a bank to ‘give’ money away. 
“But, in our opinion, the more significant challenge to SMEs is access to affordable work space and having trained staff consistently.
“SMEs are training ground for corporate Namibia.  As soon as we train them, the corporates snatch them up and we have to start all over again finding and training workers for our businesses.
“In terms of affordable work space for SME businesses, the incubation centres supplied by the City of Windhoek (for example) are only for three years per business, but there is no provision to assist the SMEs once that time is over in helping them step-up to a larger size.   “They are told to go to the Central Business District to find office/factory space, but that is not practicable; the rates of properties in the CBD are completely unaffordable by SMEs.  In the end, these once thriving SMEs have to move to their homes to do their businesses and the business fails,” Mouton said. 
Contact www.smecompete.com or @smecompete for more information.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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