Small busi­ness min­istry brings hope

Lesotho Times - - Jobs & Tenders - Dan Molopi About the writer: Dan Molopi is a prac­tic­ing small Busi­ness Con­sul­tant, Busi­ness Ad­vi­sor, Busi­ness Men­tor & Coach, and Busi­ness Skills Train­ing and Lo­cal Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Fa­cil­i­ta­tor based in Leribe.

IT is uni­ver­sally ac­cepted that the small busi­ness sec­tor is very piv­otal in de­vel­op­ing na­tional, lo­cal and re­gional economies. Stud­ies in both de­vel­oped and de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have proved that no­tion. Le­sotho, as a least de­vel­oped coun­try (LDC) in its tran­si­tion ef­forts to­wards a de­vel­op­ing county has, for many years ini­ti­ated poli­cies and pro­grammes aimed at de­vel­op­ing the small busi­ness sec­tor (small, mi­cro and medium en­ter­prises - SMMES). Th­ese started with the es­tab­lish­ment of Ba­sotho En­ter­prises De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (BEDCO) in 1984, to the re­cent es­tab­lish­ment of the Min­istry of Small En­ter­prise De­vel­op­ment (in 2015).

Sim­ply put, the suc­cess of the small busi­ness sec­tor de­pends on the fol­low­ing fun­da­men­tal is­sues: Cre­ation of an en­tre­pre­neur­ial cul­ture in the so­ci­ety, at all ages and lev­els, Pres­ence of lo­cal and re­gional mar­kets (de­mand for prod­ucts and ser­vices), Ac­cess to fi­nance.

Th­ese three crit­i­cal is­sues are made pos­si­ble by the ac­tive pres­ence of Govern­ment poli­cies that cre­ate an en­abling, pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment through pro-ac­tive laws, strate­gies and sys­tems; Suf­fi­cient num­bers of busi­ness de­vel­op­ment ser­vices (BDS) providers with var­i­ous skills and ex­per­tise, par­tic­u­larly op­er­at­ing in the pri­vate sec­tor (with a profit mo­tive), and Good col­lab­o­ra­tion of pub­lic sec­tor, cor­po­rate sec­tor and the non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion (NGO) sec­tor.

The for­ma­tion of the new Min­istry of Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment nat­u­rally creates our hope that it will ini­ti­ate a process of un­der­stand­ing the in­hibit­ing fac­tors in the growth of the small busi­ness sec­tor in Le­sotho; It will un­der­take a study to un­der­stand the ef­fec­tive­ness or lack thereof of ex­ist­ing poli­cies, pro­grammes, laws and reg­u­la­tions, as well as in­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ments in place; It will un­der­take a study to thor­oughly un­der­stand busi­ness de­vel­op­ment ser­vices needed ver­sus what is avail­able in the mar­ket, and de­vise pro­grammes to ad­dress the ca­pac­ity gaps the study iden­ti­fies; It will en­gage, work, and col­lab­o­rate with ex­ist­ing small busi­ness prac­ti­tion­ers in Le­sotho, be they in­di­vid­u­als, busi­ness for­ma­tions, NGOS, etc.

Per­haps the Min­istry of Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment would give it­self a tar­get that at the end of its first five years of ex­is­tence it shall have Es­tab­lished 10 district of­fices (out­side of the Min­istry of Trade & In­dus­try), fully ca­pac­i­tated to deal with ad­min­is­tra­tive, pol­icy and pro­gram­matic is­sues at that level; Re­viewed and strength­ened (where nec­es­sary) and/or en­acted new laws to sup­port, pro­mote and ad­min­is­ter small busi­ness de­vel­op­ment is­sues in Le­sotho; Strength­ened and/or cre­ated its de­liv­ery agen­cies, strate­gic part­ner or­gan­i­sa­tions, for bet­ter (if not best) co­or­di­na­tion of pro­grammes, ac­tiv­i­ties and ser­vice of­fer­ings; In­stalled an in­te­grated, in­ter­ac­tive web-based data­base of small busi­nesses, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment ser­vice providers, en­trepreneur­ship train­ing in­sti- tu­tions, ba­sic busi­ness skills train­ers and/or train­ing in­sti­tu­tions, small busi­ness re­search in­sti­tu­tions, etc; Es­tab­lished sched­uled com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels that Cre­ate aware­ness, Pro­mote en­trepreneur­ship; Build ca­pac­ity; Cre­ate an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment ; Re­port on progress; En­cour­age feed­back and in­vite in­puts; En­cour­age and re­ward ex­cel­lence and Show­case suc­cess.

Th­ese may in­clude News­pa­per ad­ver­to­ri­als; tv and ra­dio slots (pub­lic and pri­vate tv and ra­dio sta­tions); district work­shops and sem­i­nars; na­tional di­a­logue (e.g an­nual small busi­ness sem­i­nar) In con­clu­sion

The chal­lenge with the for­ma­tion of min­istries of small busi­ness de­vel­op­ment too is of­ten sidelin­ing lo­cal ex­per­tise in favour of for­eign con­sul­tants. This of­ten erodes lo­cal own­er­ship and creates neg­a­tive per­cep­tions.

The other chal­lenge is too much re­liance on academia. Aca­demic knowl­edge needs to aug­ment and sup­port the prac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tion as it ap­plies on the ground. My hum­ble ad­vice to the Min­istry of Small Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment is: get the lo­cal small busi­ness prac­ti­tion­ers to help build the Min­istry. Blend your strate­gic team with the prac­ti­tion­ers, the academia and the civil ser­vice in the de­vel­op­ment of a vi­able, sus­tain­able and suc­cess­ful small busi­ness de­vel­op­ment model for Le­sotho.

The Min­istry should work to­wards po­si­tion­ing it­self as co­or­di­na­tor of small busi­ness de­vel­op­ment process in Le­sotho, while the pri­vate sec­tor BDS providers do the ac­tual work of pro­vid­ing all the nec­es­sary de­vel­op­ment ser­vices (e.g con­duct­ing re­search, de­sign­ing pro­gramme, fa­cil­i­tat­ing train­ing, ad­vis­ing, men­tor­ing, coach­ing the SMMES, eval­u­at­ing per­for­mance, etc).

BDS providers should cat­e­gorise them­selves into ap­pro­pri­ate pro­fes­sional bod­ies, such as ac­coun­tants, busi­ness con­sul­tants, busi­ness ad­vi­sors & men­tors/coaches, busi­ness skills train­ing fa­cil­i­ta­tors, re­search in­sti­tu­tions, le­gal ad­vi­sors, busi­ness link­age spe­cial­ists, mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ists, etc.

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