Said, H.E. Ms Sithembiso Gile Gladys Nyoni, Minister of Women Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Development, Zimbabwe. In an exclusive interaction with The Times of Africa she elucidates about the purpose of her visit to India, the policy-framework for women working in the informal economy and why there are ‘no graveyards for SMEs’ in Zimbabwe. (August 24, 2019)
Kindly elaborate about the objectives of the visit.
First of all, I would like to thank you for your welcome. We really want to appreciate the hospitality that we have enjoyed in India since we arrived here. The objective of our visit was to attend the 6th India-International MSME Expo and Summits 2019, where we joined other Indian SMEs in their exhibition. Apart from that, we came to follow up our partnership with the Indian Government as well as some of the corporates and agencies here such as Indocorp.
Please tell us about your association with Indocorp.
With Indocorp we are discussing various ways of cooperation in terms of linking the company with our SMEs at home. We want to establish centres for technological advancement through the incubation program. Indocorp is working with the SMEs in Zimbabwe. We value them very much in that we hope that this partnership will yield good results.
The percentage of women in the informal economy in Zimbabwe is increasing. Are there any specific policy reforms introduced by the Government for women in particular?
Most SMEs in Zimbabwe are run by women; they have done a lot. According to a survey by the World Bank, almost four million SMEs have been established within the last 10-15 years, which is a major achievement. Earlier we use to focus on projects run by NGOs, but we have changed that mentality now. We must create our own wealth. We cannot run our economy from borrowed money or borrowed ideas.
About 2.8 million Zimbabweans now own their own businesses in the sector of SMEs. Women mostly own businesses in the informal economy. However, among the big corporates, only 15% women own their own big companies.
We want to change this scenario.
Because when women own a business, they think of creating employment. They think of creating wealth not just for themselves but also to support their and others’ families. Women-owned businesses tend to grow. If you establish a woman properly, they don’t fail. Because they save; they pay their loans; they are faithful to what they want to do.
In Zimbabwe, there is a saying that there are no graveyards for SMEs. They die and resurrect. Yet, the SMEs owned by women tend to sustain all and grow rather than die and resurrect.
Are you looking for any specific technology-transfer from India for the SMEs in Zimbabwe?
Already, there is a partnership between the Government of Zimbabwe and the Government of India and my ministry is a major beneficiary. The Government of India donated machinery for the Zimbabwean SME Ministry and established more than 19 service centres with high-end technology in rural areas to do metal fabrication and woodwork.
As I speak, we have a team of Indian experts who are now upgrading those machines so that they keep up with the technological advances.
We have also established an incubation centre through the National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) of India. With Indocorp, we would like to have SMEs and establish incubation centres. Assisted by my ministry, we would like to start it at village level rather than provisional level.
What is your message to the Government from India?
I would like to thank the Indian Government; we feel India is really our all-weather friend. There is a cordial relationship between the Government of India and the Government of Zimbabwe. I would like to say thank you very much.
I am sure that there is a lot that India can also learn from Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is a sleeping giant. In the new dispensation, we want to awaken that giant. Currently, we are focussing on five sectors i.e. agriculture, mining, tourism, industry and the SMEs.
Zimbabwe is accelerating in the field of mining. We are envisaging that by 2023, the mining industry will be worth 12 billion dollar.
We are proud of our relationship with India and would like to continue to make it grow so that our people also grow with it.