We briefly reviewed three political party manifestos with respect to their small business or small to medium enterprises manifestos.
Today we look at another three —the Alliance for the People’s Agenda (APA), the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T). Like we did with the first three, we highlight the salient matters from both that perhaps may be helpful to business owners as they select whom to vote for, being aware of how one’s interests are covered, if at all.
The APA Indication
A first mention is made of small enterprises under the block of sound economic management, wherein the document suggests that every Zimbabwean must be afforded the opportunity to work or at least run their own small enterprise.
Entrepreneurs are also alluded to under this section, in the main highlighted as those that may have benefited through educational support.
The document is, however, thereafter silent on small business, entrepreneurship matters and focus is shifted to big business in the three major economic sectors of agriculture, mining, tourism. One gets the impression that APA does not have a clear, dedicated strategy for small enterprise; rather they will support those seeking jobs, those in big business but not so much the small business owner as a standalone grouping.
Naturally, this would worry many a business owner, but room to thrive remains, the promoters have a strategy that clearly hits the major issues in the economy.
The MDC-T (Khupe) Offering — BEST
They emphasise on building an economy that supports transformation of livelihoods and will promote entrepreneurial skills and business development.
There is a dedicated paragraph highlighting capital support to businesses — in the main affordable loans to enable start-up enterprises combined with mentoring support to ensure they succeed.
They clearly state that informal shall be supported towards formalisation of their businesses and that they will avail a special facility to support women, youth and people with disabilities running small businesses.
They further commit to a deliberate policy inclination towards ensuring international support for small to medium enterprises. Another interesting mention is the promotion of innovation and the information technology industry through youth entrepreneur empowerment.
The PRC Promise — IDEA
Under its seven key policy priorities, the first is an economic agenda, followed by other agendas, namely the social, infrastructure development, public enterprise reform, democratic governance, security transformation, regional integration and economic diplomacy.
This economic agenda specifically speaks to an SME’s development policy. Much like the first three we looked at, this manifesto also acknowledges the crucial role of SMEs in employment creation and growth.
The authors are quite clear on the fact that they will “audit” the informal sector — with the intent of creating a database that will inform the government of the general state of that space, the economic indicators, the types and levels of activities and players — all of this useful for planning and programming.
They pledge support in the form of promoting formalisation, integration of the informal sector into the mainstream economy, developing community market places, increasing access to finance for small business, and revamping SEDCO such that it does its’ role which is training, financing and incubating SME’s.
The broad goal shared is to enable at least half of the informal traders to become formal traders. On a more specific basis the paper promises a Youth Enterprise Capital Fund emanating from 2,2 percent of national annual revenue for income generating projects.
Having brought in these three, just after reviewing the prior offerings by Build Zimbabwe Alliance, MDC Alliance and ZANU-PF, it can be observed that there are some common threads in all six.
The first one is the consensus that small businesses require support through information, training, funding, mentors and markets.
But no one explains in great detail how exactly steps will be taken in this direction. The word incubation is not at all mentioned in some, and casually in other manifestos and yet this can be the activity that can enable building a solid business.
Though big business matters, it will take much more resourcing and much more time to get them to a place where they can be running and sustaining many jobs than it would to establish strong and solid small businesses. Even when jobs come, it must be appreciated that many Zimbabweans will likely still keep their small enterprises going and therefore this sector cannot be ignored.
What should be the point of discussion is the strengthening of both big and small business such that they feed into each other.
Both have important space to occupy in the Zimbabwe economy especially because the majority of Zimbabweans still reside in the rural areas, places where not many big businesses will venture into.
Their supply chain requires small businesses to feed into it and distribute their goods and services.
Most of the policy proposals are thin on detail and indeed the manifestos are just pieces of paper if the implementation is not clear, the question is do they have the capacity to implement rather than just say the right things.
One would prefer a situation where whoever makes up government beyond 30 July emphasises on creating a conducive environment instead — because government is a poor implementer that must work with other actors who specialise in the tenets of enterprise development.
These include training, financing, incubation, market linkages institutions. Yet another important aspect that is not articulated in the documents is the opportunity of the internet. This should not be ignored and only one of the manifestos somewhat touched on this.
There are many things that can be done because the average small business owner, innovator or entrepreneur has access to the whole world for marketing, and can equally receive payment from anywhere in the world. If we are to progress as a nation, we would need to deliberately disrupt and leapfrog by leveraging our level of connectedness combined with our ability to read and write.
Political parties must know that in attracting voters that are small business owners, it is not business as usual. They must offer more.
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