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This reader contains papers delivered at the conference on chamber experiences in SMME support, held in Windhoek at 2-3 October 1998. The conference was organised by the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Windhoek Office, for the SEPAC Working Group „Entrepreneurship Development and Training".

The conference sessions addressed the important issue of the role private sector organisations play in delivering business services to small businesses. The involvement of chambers, business associations and NGOs in the capacity of service providers is a crucial component of any policy, which is aimed at increasing the range, outreach and quality of business services under conditions of cost-effectiveness. It is in line with the notion of government as a facilitator, which implies the function of private sector and NGOs as implementors, and is also in accordance with the emphasis placed on public-private partnership in development.

For delivery structures to effectively gain from the involvement of private sector organisations, provisions have to be made for establishing a strong interface between the government and private domains, based on an agreed allocation of functions and resources. This is the main agenda of a national SMME Policy, and hence there are clear advantages in formulating the Policy in a consultative and inclusive process. At the same time, private sector organisations in many cases need to gear up to additional tasks in order to be able to deliver to small businesses. Therefore, the role chambers and other organisations actually play depends both on the policy framework and the organisations’ capacities.

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The conference explored means and ways of chambers to get even more involved in the daunting task of developing the SMME sector. In taking on such responsibilities chambers are often extending services beyond their membership and contributing to national development in general. In order for them to unfold their particular capabilities, they need to enjoy a conducive framework, but also to put in place internal programmes and structures to adjust to the specific needs of small businesses.

The papers published in this reader address both aspects. In order to maintain the focus on the chambers’ role in SMME service provision, only the contributions, which squarely deal with this issue, have been selected for editing and publishing. We feel that with respect to chambers’ involvement in SMME promotion the SADC region falls back behind some other regions, both in terms of the level of discussion and the prevailing practice. Hence we sincerely hope this reader will make a small contribution to advance this issue.

Peter Oesterdiekhoff
SEPAC Secretariat

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | November 1999

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