Mbabane: Local micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) should be given the opportunity in securing government contracts post COVID 19, FESBC strongly suggests.
The Federation of Eswatini Business Community (FESBC) is of the view that this is just one of the many measures that can be explored to help MSMEs recover and emerge stronger from the pandemic. The federation’s experts revealed that government policies can be better adapted to help start-ups and Eswatini MSMEs and companies (grow) scale up.
“No particular policy can be that precise. But we think we can better adapt, and we can better tweak MSME policies to reach out to an ever-enlarging group of entrepreneurs in the Kingdom,” said Hezekiel Mabuza, Vice President of FESBC.
“When our local MSME firms reach a certain level, they need validation from our Eswatini Government agencies the same way that bigger companies do,” he added.
Mabuza went on to say: “So in terms of government procurement policies, we can provide them with a lift up that provides them with a form of credentialing. Then, they can be well positioned to compete internationally, having been certified and validated by the big government-linked companies here in Eswatini.”
Mabuza said in FESBC ongoing survey of MSMEs post COVID-19, “we have already outlined and make recommendations for our Eswatini Government measures and policies to help our local MSME businesses and workers recover and renew themselves across the Kingdom.”
In the short term, he said, measures like the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) of wage subsidies and the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Financial Stimulus Plans for MSMEs) should be created in order to help save the majority of Eswatini MSMEs, companies and jobs across the nation.
In the medium term, he said, these incentives and financial stimulus plans will minimise the “cliff effect” that a sudden withdrawal of these relief schemes would have soon. “At FESBC we are very much aware that our local businesses cannot depend on government subsidies for ever. For this reason, such non-financial interventions and policies will continue to allay the fears of retrenchment and businesses shutting down across the nation post COVID-19 era,” he said.
“Additionally, we are calling on our government to support local MSMEs and companies by also hiring emaSwati first into the public sector to reduce informal businesses mushrooming across the Kingdom,” he said. Furthermore, more effort is needed to formalize our informal MSMEs across the nation by making it easier to start business in the Kingdom.
Mabuza further pointed to the fact that, no amount of short-term relief or government financial stimulus is enough if there are no new businesses and revenue streams coming in, and this is why “our government should explore ways to open up the Kingdom for local and global trade.”
Moving on, Mabuza said we should reimagine and rethink of creative ways where one doesn’t need to travel outside the Kingdom due to the pandemic, whether it is through signing digital economy (e-Trade) agreements or using Eswatini as a regional business hub for the region and the continent.
Finally, FESBC Business Experts are also calling on the Eswatini Government’s commitment to protect emaSwati jobs.
In this regard, they suggested, changes to salary structures and basic minimum wage policies could be a good move by our Eswatini Government supported by free technical and vocational training for our Eswatini Youths in order to reduce Youth unemployment which is rife in our Kingdom at 47 percent post COVID-19.
“What we want to see at FESBC is the ability to implement a differentiation (e.g. unique, inimitable and un-substitutable niche market), diversification and global (e.g. export market) strategies countrywide in order to be able to attract local talent and create new jobs.
“Because when we have that high calibre of emaSwati talent, we can collectively lift the entire Eswatini labour force,” said Mabuza.
“So I would like to urge every lilSwati not to just look at salary restructures as one measure by themselves, but as part of a slew of measures our Government should roll out to protect emaSwati jobs and – at the same time – level up and attract the best talent from across our Kingdom.” said Mabuza