17 November 2017

East Africa: New Deal to Connect Regional SMEs to Global Markets

The East African Business Council (EABC) has signed an agreement with the World SME Forum to support and enhance African SMEs' integration into global markets.

The deal was signed on Wednesday at the second East African Business and Entrepreneurship forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The World SME Forum is a private sector-led initiative that supports the overall growth and impact of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) globally.

EABC executive director Lilian Awinja and Dr Tunc Uyanik, president of the World SME Forum, signed the agreement that will form the basis of enhanced collaboration between the respective institutions expected to contribute to economic development, job creation and inclusive growth in the region.

Awinja told The New Times that the project will be part of a larger EABC initiative to support growth of SMEs in the region "with a specific focus on women and youth in business."

"Jointly, we will be able to develop forward and backward linkages between the large consumers and SMEs to ensure local sourcing and outsourcing of services, access to finance and other business support services.

"Training, capacity building and mentorship will be an integral part of the programme. Further, the programme will focus on promotion of innovations and commercialisation of innovations to turn them into businesses," she said.

Awinja said the initiative comes at an opportune time to boost the objectives of the EAC and EABC in developing the SME sector to be able to maximise its potential contribution to the economy of the region.

The World SME Forum will work with the EABC to extend the scope of its activities and programmes to the African continent and partnering with leading chambers and SME associations in the region.

Meanwhile, Christophe Bazivamo, the EAC deputy secretary-general for productive and social sectors, launched a new project titled, "Creating Perspectives: Business for Development" at the same event.

The project aims to improve economic perspectives for SMEs in the region through scaling up of production.

Matthias Wachter, the head of department security, raw materials and Africa Federation of German Industries, Germany, said a lot of companies in Africa are SMEs facing challenges in enhancing competitiveness and growth.

"SMEs in Germany would like to know the processes of investing in Africa," he said.

Millions of SMEs in Rwanda and Africa continue to struggle despite being the biggest contributor to economies, sector according to experts.

The challenges include limited finance, high taxes, lack of markets, and inadequate skills.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry says 98 per cent of businesses are considered SMEs in Rwanda, contributing 41 per cent of all private sector jobs in the nation.

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