Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Sithembiso Nyoni stunned Members of Parliament last week when she expressed surprise that her ministry had been allocated US$100 million in the current budget and asked former Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe where the money was.
Khupe had asked the minister what plans she had to make sure that the US$100 million was used to grow the informal sector and create jobs. Nyoni responded: "I really would love to have US$100 million for SMEs. If I may ask where is it?"
Khupe said it was in the Blue Book, the government's estimates of expenditure which tabulates how much money had been allocated to each ministry and what it is for.
"Yes, it is in the Blue Book and we all know that what is in the Blue Book is often very different from what is delivered to the ministries," Nyoni responded.
"If we were to have this US$100 million in the SME's ministry coffers, I tell you and I promise you, hon. member, we would turn this economy round because the ministry has put in place seven pillars to make sure that the SMEs grow."
Q & A:
MS. KHUPE: Thank you very much. I would also like to add my voice by thanking the Hon. Minister for her ministerial statement that is calling for the formalisation of the informal sector. You know Minister, Zimbabwe currently is highly informalised and informalisation does not facilitate capital accumulation.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, during the budget presentation, alluded to the fact that he had allocated US$100 million to the informal sector. So, what plans do you have to make sure that the US$100 million is utilised so that you grow the informal sector from small to micro, micro to medium and medium to large enterprises so that they become formalised and create jobs at the end of the day.
Secondly Hon., Minister, you alluded to the fact that 5.7 million people are in the informal sector. Out of the 5.7million people, 60% are women and women are getting a raw deal when they go to financial lending institutions to borrow money as startup capital or to grow their businesses because they are told that they are not credit worthy. So, Minister, what is your view with regards to a Women Stand Alone Bank that is going to be free from collateral, so that women are able to borrow money without all the stringent rules? I think that is the only way that women can be able to grow their businesses and they can formalise so that they employ more people. I thank you.
THE MINISTER OF SMALL TO MEDUIM ENTERPRISES AND CO-OPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT (MRS NYONI): Thank you very much Hon. Khupe. I really would love to have US$100 million for SMEs. If I may ask where is it?
MS. KHUPE: It is in the Blue Book.
MRS NYONI: Yes, it is in the Blue Book and we all know that what is in the Blue Book is often very different from what is delivered to the ministries. If we were to have this US$100 million in the SME's Ministry coffers, I tell you and I promise you, hon. member, we would turn this economy round because the Ministry has put in place seven pillars to make sure that the SMEs grow.
The first one is to inject into our people an entrepreneurial spirit that everyone must come up and know that they have to work for themselves honestly and deliver incomes for themselves.
Secondly, we are very serious about training and education. We train the SMEs so that they know what they are doing, like how do you start and grow your business and also the skills in which they are. I am sure you are also aware of the Indo-Zimbabwe project that gave us some technology. We train them also on technology.
Thirdly, SMEs must also advance in technology and we are starting an incubation centre where SMEs will be incubated for three months with high technology machines. From there, they will be sponsored to go and start their own businesses, well qualified to produce quality goods.
Fourthly, it is marketing. We need to assist SMEs to market through trade fairs and also through linking them to other nations. It is also the legislation, the legal framework or the environment within which they work and as you have seen we now have an Act that governs that. So, with all that in place, we will be able to galvanise the SMEs to make the biggest contribution that Africa has ever seen. I wish, hon. members, you would really advocate for this US$100 million to be available to the Ministry and to the poor that are trying to make a living there through small and medium sized businesses.
Hon. member, you are right to say that of the 5.7 million people that are employed, 60% are women and that maybe we need to have a standalone bank for women. There is nothing that stops us from doing that, but my mandate is SMEs; men, women, young or old and maybe, this needs to be addressed with another ministry. My Ministry is mandated to be inclusive, to walk and to groom and to grow SMEs regardless of age and gender but I really support the women's bank and wish well those who will be mandated to do so. Thank you.