|Mwanakatwe---I''m committed, ready to listen to your concerns|
Feb. 21 (Zambia Informer) -----The Zambia’s Government and the private sector, partners in economic development have embraced each other to accelerate economic growth devoid of policies that hamper development.
The players have resolved to dialogue, often, on matters of legislation and other concerns that have for long stifled economic growth in Africa’s second rich copper producer and one of Africa’s fastest growing economies for want of information sharing.
During a Public-Private roundtable discussion on local procurement and supplier development organized by the Private Enterprise Programme (PeP Zambia) in Lusaka, Tuesday, the Government and the private sector resolved to amicably to dialogue on matters that are likely to stifle economic growth of the country while taking cognissance that both players have equal and vital roles to contribute to the growth of the Zambian economy.
While the Government has the monopoly to devise legislation as a yardstick for economic growth, the private sector feel left out and seek to dialogue on legislation to avoid slowing down the growth of the economy as well as the development of the private sector, chiefly the Small and Medium Entrepreneurs, who are a vital cog in the grow the economy, comparable to Europe including the United States where 80 percent of economic programmes are initiated by the private sector through SMEs.
Scholars have arguably stated that the role of SMEs in economic development and employment creation has occupied most of the discussions among government, policy makers, academicians/ researchers/ scholars and economists in Kenya and other countries.
It has been established that small business owners globally have the same characteristics, face the same obstacles but differ in their understanding of how small businesses assist in economic growth. SMEs have ability to fuel economic growth because they create new jobs, expand the tax base, and are drivers of innovation.
According to a research paper by Dr. Ngui Thomas Katua titled: “The Role of SMEs in Employment Creation and Economic Growth in Selected Countries”, Katua argues that SMEs enhance competition and entrepreneurship hence have external benefits on economy wide efficiency, innovation and aggregate productivity.
Katua, a Lecturer at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, in various citations argues that SMEs are the primary vehicles by which new entrepreneurs provide the economy with a continuous supply of ideas, skills, and innovations (CACCI, 2003).
Globally there is an agreement that MSMEs hold the key to economic growth based on the fast growth of enterprises and the role of SMEs in generation of employment.
The concentration of SMEs has a close relationship with the dominant economic activities. SMEs dominate the world economies in terms of employment and number of companies, yet their full potential remains remarkably untapped.
These shortcomings he cites to a number of reasons including legal, institutional, cultural, societal, among others which make the role of SMEs on economic development different across countries.
The same can be said about the United States in which the Government has made a deliberate policy to relax laws that make the economy private sector driven with SMEs contributing about 80 percent of the economic programmes of the country.
During the meeting Zambia Association of Manufacturers leader Rosetta Mwape Chabala argues that the unstreamlined legislation including that of the Citizen’s Economic Empowerment Commission’s Act need urgent review to make the private sector thrive.
Mwape-Chabala who is Chief executive officer at Zambia Metal Fabricators, manufacturers of copper-related products regrets delayed payments to suppliers of goods and services by Government which affects operations, lack of a systematic mindset among consumers of products and services and the influx of unforeseen middlemen, chiefly created by the chain stores in Zambia as some of the setbacks.
The CEEC act needs urgent review to meet the dictates of the current economic trends, support to local producers while the law on the promotion of local content as a driver to diversification and economic growth, which has remained on the shelves since 2010, needs to be hastened if Zambia is to remain competitive, among other concerns.
Jackson Sikamo, who is pioneering the Business Linkages Champions Group, embracing various players in the demanded that while the private sector seeks to thrive in the country’s fledgling economy called for improved standards on various goods and services provided to remain competitive.
He noted that the majority of suppliers lacked specialization while others invest in businesses which they lack innovation or product improvement to sustain their operations.
Peggy Chituta, the deputy director-Inspections at the Zambia Bureau of Standards called for standard practices among suppliers and manufacturers of products and avoid the risk of being thrown out of the market.
ZABS is presently considering including in the curriculum subjects related to standards from lower to senior education schools to inculcate a culture of proficiency.
Other players regretted the escalating cases of corruption when providing services to would be customers noting that some seek to be bribed before services including inclusion into bidding for contracts or provision of services are rendered.
However, commerce trade and minister Margaret Mwanakatwe, noted the concerns of the stakeholders and pledged commitment by the Government to dialogue with the private sector on matters of mutual interest to develop the country’s economy noting that Government alone cannot develop the economy with an exclusion of other players.
“I’m ready to listen and embrace the private sector’s concerns……as Government, we are willing and I’m here and now pledging my commitment to promote and work with the private sector in this marriage of the future convenience”