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Highlights on National Chamber of Commerce and their role in SMME Support in Swaziland
Paul Thabede


Formally in Swaziland there are two National Chambers of Commerce and Industry viz. the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Sibakho Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The latter was established because indigenous entrepreneurs felt that their interests were not catered for in the former. However, a third National Organisation, Swazi Commercial Amadoda Council, has been included in this paper as the writer feels it plays a role similar to that of a chamber.

Swaziland Chamber of Commerce and Industry

  1. The Swaziland Chamber of Commerce and Industry commenced operation in 1916 as a chamber of commerce. In 1964 a Chamber of Industry was also established and a few years later the two bodies were amalgamated.

  2. The Chamber aims at the protection and advancement of all mercantile and industrial interests and all other interests likely to benefit from Commerce and Industry in Swaziland.

  3. Membership of the Chamber is currently above 330 organisations from all sectors of the economy.

  4. The headquarter is located in Mbabane, the Capital City.

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  5. A quarterly bulletin "NEWS REVIEW" is produced by the Chamber.

  6. Apart from the fact that membership to the chamber is open to any business person/organisation there is no evidence the writer could find of any proactive role played by the Chamber in the SMME sector.

  7. The Chamber management is, however, willing to consider any proposals on the role that it can play in the SMME sector to stimulate the Swazi economy.

Sibakho Chamber of Commerce & Industry

  1. The Chamber commenced in 1986 and is headquartered in Manzini, the second largest city in Swaziland.

  2. The Chamber aims at assisting members with business training, provision of credit, preparation of business plans, trading licenses and the operation of a wholesale trading unit.

  3. Membership is currently estimated at 350 drawing members from the manufacturing, agricultural and commercial sectors. Membership is both individual and organisational.

  4. The chamber has four regional chambers, one in each of the four regions of the country, i.e. Hhohho, Manzini, Lubombo and Shiselweni. The National Executive comprises of: The President, Vice President, General Secretary, National Treasurer, Four Members comprising of the Regional Chairpersons

  5. Constraints faced by the organisation include:
    • Lack of funds - Though members pay subscriptions these are not enough to sustain the organisation. Moreover some members default on their payments.

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    • The lack of funds also constrains the organisation in hiring competent manpower to assist members.
    • Members are not adequately trained in the running of business, thus they cannot access credit easily. This lack of know-how has been evident recently when members were given loans from The Enterprise Fund.

  6. The Management of the organisation has identified training as one of the crucial tasks to embark upon for members to improve their business operations.

Swazi Commercial Amadoda

  1. The Swazi Commercial Amadoda Council, as a national organisation, was established by His Majesty King Sobhuza II in 1947. He had realised that Swazis were ignored in commerce by white settlers and there was no feasible way to unite the two parties so that they could share the common goal in trade and profits.

  2. The organisation operates in two groups, i.e. trade and transport, each having nine branches and two sub-branches all over Swaziland. The branches are run by branch executive councils empowered to hear all applications of branches and approve those they consider good for the public and allowing for a 5 mile (8 km) radius between shops (for traders). In transport applications once considered by the Swazi Commercial Amadoda are then sent to the Road Transportation Board (RTB) with recommendations. The R.T.B. is the only authority to issue transport permits.

  3. There are currently more than 2000 transport operators (buses, taxis, combis and "for hire" vehicles) under the control of Swazi Commercial Amadoda Transport. About 650 retail shops and 420 hawkers and pedlars are under the control of Swazi Commercial Amadoda.

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  4. The Swazi Commercial Amadoda operates in rural (crown land) areas and not in urban areas and the process is as follows:-

    An applicant first goes to the Chief (traditional authority) of an area in which he intends to operate to make an application. Once his application has been approved the chairperson and secretary of the branch take the application to the Executive Council - the final machinery before it is submitted to His or Her Majesty who also has full authority to accept or refuse an application.

  5. The objects of the organisation are:-
    • To watch over, promote and protect the interests for its members.
    • To encourage settlement of disputes by conciliatory methods.
    • To promote, support or oppose as may be deemed expedient any proposed legislative or other measures affecting interests of members.
    • To provide, when deemed necessary, legal assistance to members.
    • To do all such lawful things as may appear to be in the interests of members including the negotiation of favourable prices for merchandise, the arrangement for bulk buying, importation of goods for members and market investigation.
    • To promote the excellence of work by encouraging the making known of all improved methods of trading to all members, and establish and maintain a library on the subject of accounting, economics, business methods, and all matters connected with and conducive to the improvement of commerce.

  6. Persons eligible for membership are all citizens of Swaziland who are entitled to carry on business in the country. An ordinary member pays an admission fee of E25.00 and an annual subscription of E20.00.

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  7. The organisation has been effective:
    • In the granting of licenses in rural areas. Though over the years this process has been cumbersome, delays have now been minimised e.g. by group opposed to individual granting of licenses.
    • In 1997 the organisation secured a loan of E500.000 (US$1=E5.90) for on-lending to members. A total of 100 entrepreneurs secured loans through this scheme.

  8. The problems experienced include the following:-
    • Undercapitalisation - the E500.000.00 loan was too small. Each member had to be limited to a maximum of E20.000. Coupled with this, due to the financing structure of The Enterprise Fund, a member cannot secure another loan after liquidating his debt before, unless and until the total of E500.000 has been fully repaid.
    • Lack of facilities to effectively supervise members who have secured funding. Some members play "hide and seek".
    • Due to financial constraints SCA does not give loans to transport operators. Unfortunately even banks are reluctant to finance the bus operators due to the high cost of vehicles.
    • Infighting.

General Comments and Conclusions

  1. With coordinated effort the Chambers of Commerce and Industry can play a major role in the development of SMMEs in Swaziland.

  2. The Sibakho Chamber of Commerce should identify a "niche" in the market, which they can effectively service, rather than going wholesale in its operations.

  3. The Swaziland Commercial Amadoda should find ways and means of solving their problems amicably without degenerating into splinter groups.

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

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