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SME sector strong despite slow growth

by Kelvin Chiringa

SMEs Compete director Claudine Mouton has said the small to medium scale business enterprises sector is still resilient despite the recessionary environment they are in.

Mouton was speaking at the sidelines of an entrepreneurial skills program for women in business held by the SMEs Compete yesterday.

Said Mouton, “Though there has been an impact on the construction sector, other sectors have not been influenced. The recession did not have a big effect on the SMEs sector as one would be made to believe. I believe the sector is strong, it’s growing, and it continues to grow despite all the economic hardships.”

With significant companies have shut down or retrenched, she said SMEs have been innovative and have not been putting their eggs in one basket.

She, however, could not deny that some have equally bore the brunt of the economic implosion.

“SMEs are the engines of economic growth in Namibia, some of them have been affected by the recession, we cannot deny that,” she said. 

She was quick to point out that this should not, however, discourage anyone from starting a business in such times. 

“When is the right time? I believe that if you have an idea, you have the resources, you have the willpower then you should start. One of the quotes that I keep with me is, think big, start small, start now,” she said.

“We are happy that DBN has entered the SME space and obviously like all the other banks they will have all the requirements, but we have a strong SME sector I believe they will be able to overcome all those challenges. DBN, I have already read in the papers that they have a mentorship program.”

“Look at the other commercial banks. FNB launched a special fund in April this year with access to collateral-free loans requirement. Obviously there are other requirements that you must follow the business plan, you have to prove that you can repay, but the opportunities are there,” she elaborated.

However, she lamented the fact that women entrepreneurs still have meta-peculiar challenges they face in the entrepreneurial space which get to be exempted from their male counterparts.

“There are cultural issues; they face more obstacles compared to those faced by men. Females are seen as the weaker sex. They are not seen as to be able to go in there and grow a business,” she said.

Mouton said these stereotypes are the opposite of what females are capable of.

“Females are determined; they are more disciplined regarding money, disciplined regarding results than their male counterparts. I am not saying males aren’t, don’t get me wrong,” she said.

Based on her experiences in the past 12 years working in the sector, she says that she has found females to be more determined and focused regarding training. 

“They are money makers. They have to fulfil multiple roles. They have to be a mother, a wife, an entrepreneur, a friend and so to overcome all those challenges it requires a special type of character. And through these workshops we try to build that type of character,” she said. 

Pensioner and entrepreneur Welma Enssle said, “Women have a harder time whether it’s in normal economic conditions or not. People accept and expect men to do things. When we go to the banks, for instance, to seek for funding, because you are a woman and sometimes married, your husband has to come and sign it with you.” 

While Leila Nambinga believes a female entrepreneur is an independent woman who wants to make a difference in the country and to make a profit along the road, the challenge is to find a target market. 

“It won't be that difficult if you know what your target market wants,” she told The Villager.

Despite current indicators of a subdued economy entering 2018, Mouton is optimistic.

“In business you get downs, and you get ups. If you are down, then you have to get up. So we believe that it is going to be a successful year. There a lot of exciting things happening in the sector focusing on females and youth,” she said.