SECTION of DOCUMENT:
Report on the regional meeting of the Working Group "Entrepreneurship Development and Training"
The conference held in Windhoek from 2 - 3 October was hosted by the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), Namibia Office. Funds for the conference and workshop were generously made available by the FES through the SEPAC project in cooperation with the SADC Secretariat.
The Working Group Entrepreneurship Development and Training met for the first time. A workshop for the Working Group was organised and held on 2-3 October 1998 at the Safari Conference Centre in Windhoek, Namibia. The workshop was attended by members from the following member countries: Tanzania (Chairperson of the Working Group), Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Mauritius, Swaziland and South Africa.
Following the official opening with contributions by representatives of the Namibian Ministry of Industry (Investment Centre), the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) for the promotion of small business in Namibia, the members of the Working Groups presented country reports on initiatives in SME promotion in their respective countries. The reports generally emphasised the role, function and activities of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and their experience, strength and constraints in this field. The reports
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were of great interest and set the scene for further deliberations during the workshop.
After the country reports a Meta plan-brainstorming session was undertaken which resulted in the formulation of priority areas in the promotion of entrepreneurship development. These priority areas provided the backdrop for smaller working groups to formulate and propose strategies. After reporting back to the workshop the strategy recommendations were prioritised and it was decided to draft a strategic plan outline on the basis of the recommendations of the workshop, translating the recommendations into objectives and strategies. The strategic plan outline is attached to this report.
The following is a summary of discussions on the country reports which dealt with entrepreneurship and SME development as practised, experienced and perceived by mainly chambers of commerce and industry and other business representative organisations:
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agencies. In such cases they may participate in and benefit from the programmes but often fail to be active members of the chambers with regard to making their voices heard, participate on standing committees, etc.
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Priority Areas for Entrepreneurship Development
The preliminary discussion around entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship development were largely influenced by experiences made within business representative organisations and chambers of commerce and industry. This was due to the fact that the majority of participants either represented chambers or had a direct or indirect chamber background, having worked and cooperated with chambers.
Three main areas were identified as being crucial for entrepreneurship development (in order of priority):
Although a very few concrete proposals were generated by the workshop due to time constraints, discussions and priority rankings clearly put information provision on top of the list of services to be provided to small businesses/entrepreneurs. SME development is hampered by an 'information-poor' environment. Market signal on business opportunities, customer trends, methods of organisation, etc. are not communicating themselves effectively to small businesses. SMEs perform better in information-rich environments; information services seek to help create such an environment.
There are a number of constraints towards the creation of an information-rich environment, which have been experienced by both entrepreneurs and information providers alike:
- The right information
Information has to be focused and precise and it has to be needs based. The information has to be constantly up-dated and concentrate on the challenges which SMEs face. This will require information providers to apply the right systems and tools in identifying the needs of small entrepreneurs.
- The right packaging of information
The information will have to be easily understood, thus it will have to take into consideration the educational, social and economic background of those who seek information. Therefore the information has to be presented in both written and spoken form taking into account that vernacular languages may play an important role.
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- Accessibility of information
It is of equal importance where and how the information is provided. Information providers may be too far away from the businesses. The form of presentation needs to take into account the learning style of potential users. SMEs get information from a variety of sources, such as their peers, competitors, suppliers and customers. Entrepreneurs are more likely to value and use information, which comes from someone close to them, who has a track record of practical credibility.
It can clearly be stated that 'Information Provision' was identified as the most important service to SMEs in the context of services provision by business representative organisations, such as chambers.
- Scope of Information
Services provision was further identified as a very broad field, which overlaps with many other activities of services provision areas, and will therefore include:
Provision of support services
Other services, which were identified, were:
The area of 'Training' generated the largest amount of ideas, but when it came to prioritising 'Training' received the lowest priority. The
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highest priority was accorded to 'Access to Linkages' followed by 'Access to Finance'. In discussion it was not surprising to find out that 'Training' appeared to be one of the most important intervention but that most organisations, and especially chambers lack the required capacity to run training programmes. Therefore, the need to network and cooperate with other organisations was emphasised. Chambers need to impact on the course content, curriculum and delivery mechanism of training interventions in the interest of their members.
The services 'business linkages' and 'access to finance' were not dealt with in more detail because these are issues for which other SEPAC Working Groups had been set up. It was agreed that in Entrepreneurship Development 'Training' plays a key role. Therefore, a group was assigned to make further recommendations on 'Training'.
Advocacy and networking
Advocacy and networking
Although this service area did not rate high on the list of priorities, it was recognised as an important key function and role especially of chambers and other business representative organisations.
Two main areas were identified:
The aspect of networking and cooperation was incorporated into the group on 'Training' to work out recommendations on how common purpose partnerships and joint ventures would assist the training aspects of entrepreneurship development.
Developmental aspects in entrepreneurship development
Developmental aspects in entrepreneurship development
The discussion centred around the question on how far Chambers of Commerce and Industry should be involved in developmental
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programmes in the area of entrepreneurship development beyond the provision of services as outlined above.
It was felt that SMEs require special attention and support and that entrepreneurship promotion and development (incl. business start up programmes, awareness raising and education) should form part of the scope of activities of chambers, although these programmes may not directly benefit the members.
Again, partnerships and joint ventures with other organisations and agencies were recommended as being a useful and necessary strategy.
Participants at the workshop formed three groups to deal with the three points, which were felt require further discussion and formulation of recommendations:
Wealth of information
Information provision is to be based on needs. Information should be appropriate and relevant. An information audit (including the wealth of unpublished information) should be undertaken and prioritised in terms of what is needed most and most frequently by SMEs.
The way to determine what is needed and ways to establish which are felt/perceived/actual needs requires training of staff working with entrepreneurs. Sub-sector analysis in a participatory approach was identified as an important strategy to establish needs.
Reaching the SMEs
Several strategies should be applied:
Ways of providing the information:
Recommendations from Group 2 - Support Services
Training was identified as the most important intervention in Entrepreneurship Development. However, chambers should only
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become involved in the provision of training in a limited way and in particular as an extension of information services, such as one on one advisory services and referrals. Chambers are not training, nor finance institutions. Their role should be to create favourable access for their members to such services and programmes and enrich the content and influence the way in which such services are offered and delivered in the interest of their members.
In particular, the following recommendations were made:
Financial capacity and access to finance
The capacity of chambers to finance their operations and create financial sustainability was identified as a serious shortcoming of most service providers. Whereas promotion and advocacy can be achieved with a very small secretariat and a strong involvement of voluntary leadership, the provision of services requires competent staff.
Regarding the financial sustainability the following was recommended to follow the example of the Mauritius Chamber to negotiate with respective governments for chambers to be authorised to perform certain delegated tasks and charge fees (e.g. Mauritius - fees for export documentation).
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Another point raised was the importance to differentiate between services....
Access to Finance
The workshop participants agreed that chambers should not become financial institutions. Access to finance should also be delinked from training.
Chambers should effectively perform the function to impact on the development of an environment in which there is favourable access to finance, especially for SMEs. Main strategies could include:
Access to Linkages
Chambers have an important role to play in the facilitation of vertical linkages between SMEs and large companies. The particular role of chambers should be:
Special programmes for the provision of entrepreneurial support services
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Two additional recommendations were made:
Recommendations from Group 3 - Development Activities
The group came up with the following broad recommendation:
'Entrepreneurial programmes have to be developed and implemented towards satisfying issues along socio-economic and political lines.'
These lines respond to the following three broad aspects:
It was proposed that 'Literacy Programmes' could play an important role. Literacy would have to be understood in a broad perspective, from reading and writing to understanding and tackling the regulatory environment to economic understanding (business literacy). Together with such programmes the entrepreneurial spirit, especially of young people, should be fostered and a culture of entrepreneurial thinking and action introduced.
Such programmes should be developed and introduced basically anywhere - at the work place, in schools, in places of adult learning, in churches, by tertiary education centres, in rural communities through community based organisations, etc.
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Employers, concerned citizens, community and spiritual leaders, activists etc. could become involved in such programmes through their respective organisations, such as Chambers, NGOs, interest groups, churches etc.
The media, both print and electronic could play an important role in the promotion of an enterprising spirit and culture. The corporate world could champion campaigns and diversify from the 'passion for sports' to a 'passion for enterprise'.
The group proposed that chambers together with a specific Ministry should develop a concept and champion a campaign.
Besides active empowerment programmes through indigenisation, affirmative action and/or other programmes and measures, the group felt strongly, that SME entrepreneurs have to be actively and meaningfully involved in advocacy and policy making processes. SME owners/managers should be provided with the knowledge, attitudes, skills and tools to enrich and impact on economic policy processes and in particular towards levelling the playing field. This will lead to the creation of appropriate advocacy skills amongst SMEs owners/managers, more active and meaningful participation as members of the chambers in leadership positions and standing committees, access to broader participation at local level in leadership and public office in the interest of the creation of an enabling, regulatory environment etc.
Such advocacy skills development programmes could be initiated with chambers and funded through international donors.
Political Stability and Self-Reliance
This recommendation deals with the development of local (African) strategies and solutions in entrepreneurship development instead of relying on, and replicating, European (North) models. Africans should take responsibility for their own destiny. SADC member states
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understand their needs and challenges better. Models should be studied within the region and promoted through SADC, COMESA and OAU.
The group also presented a concise SWOT analysis for their recommendation as follows:
Resolutions and The Way Forward
The Working Group recommended the following:
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | November 1999