Recipients of the N$6 million in funding, awarded by the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology (NCRST) through its Innovation Challenge, had their first information sharing session in Windhoek this week.
The 25 beneficiaries have so far received their initial N$250,000 seed capital from the NCRST funding programme, to be used towards starting their own businesses, with an additional N$250,000 set to be disbursed next year.
NCRST Manager of Resource Mobilisation and Grant Management, Alushe Nditya, said the institution partnered with SME Bank in the project, after signing a memorandum of understanding to offer the entrepreneurs, mentorship and business development support.
She urged the recipients of the grants to learn from the information sharing sessions and apply this knowledge, in order for their enterprises to grow and benefit the nation.
“There are two groups and they will both undergo financial training, and we will monitor and keep track of them,” Nditya said.
SME Bank Business Development Manager, Laban Njadila, said as a financial institution, it is their duty to provide the recipients with financial education, thereby contributing to the growth of their businesses.
“We will keep track of them and would want to see them as successful independent businesses one day. We want them to create employment for the nation,” he said.
Njadila said the bank will also exempt the recipients from bank charges, as part of the agreement.
“We will not charge them for their banking,” he said.
The two organisations formalised their partnership earlier this year, with the signing of a MoU, with a view to increase the participation of SMEs in the formal economy.
The collaboration between NCRST and SME Bank recognises the need to engage and collaborate, and bridges the existing gap being experienced by SMEs, as they battle to turn their ideas and proposals into bankable businesses and enterprises that can be funded by commercial banks.
The information session is one of the programs that are supported, as part of the agreement.
Other programs include the promotion and implementation of an Entrepreneurship Development Programme and a Business Linkages Programme, which links SMEs to large corporate/commercial companies, to further their growth and development.
The MoU also covers the up-scaling of NCRST-funded innovation projects that demonstrate potential for growth, as well as a programme that bridges support for SME Bank applicants, to enhance their bankability through research and development and any other strategic flagship programme, as agreed upon by the two institutions.
Implementation of the activities will be undertaken through a joint technical committee, comprising representatives from both institutions. The Entrepreneurship Development Programme was launched in August this year.
SME Bank is a licenced commercial bank, with branches in Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Rundu and Ongwediva.