Over 1 700 SMEs have benefited from Govt’s aid scheme

WINDHOEK: Over 1 700 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have benefited from the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Equipment Aid Scheme (EAS) since its inception during the 2009/10 financial year.

The scheme was established to address some challenges facing SMEs such as the acquisition of production equipment.

The Deputy Director of Business, Entrepreneurial Development and Promotion in the Trade Ministry, Diina Nashidengo said about N.dollars 67 million has been spent on the programme thus far.

She told Nampa here on Tuesday that the overall objective of the scheme is to reduce SMEs’ cost of business set up and operation, while assisting them to expand in order to increase output.

The scheme aims to provide production equipment and input to qualifying SMEs on affordable lease or donation (free of cost) basis, especially during the start-up phase of the business.

It also offers business development services in areas such as business management, product design, development, quality and marketing, business linkages; while also providing facilitation of market access and linkages to large retail and distribution outlets.

Preference is given to labour-intensive manufacturing and value-addition industries with special focus on garment and textiles, gemstone cutting and polishing, furniture and cabinet making, leather products, meat processing, agro-based industries, fish processing, building materials and metal fabrication.

The scheme is open to all small-scale businesses registered with the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Companies Registration Office and/or the Directorate of Industrial Development.

Nashidengo said it is also required that the SME has been in operation for at least 12 months and has new project ideas with potential for success and growth into a viable self-sustaining business.

A business plan is required on application for assistance from the EAS, while a site assessment of the respective applicant is undertaken.

She said the equipment is handed over by the Trade Minister Calle Schlettwein himself in all 14 regions of Namibia.

These handing-over ceremonies are arranged in collaboration with the Regional Council and Ministry of Trade and Industry office in the respective regions.

She added that there is no specific number of allocations per year per region, as the trade and industry sector comprises of various entrepreneurs in different business operations in different regions.

The deputy director indicated that the scheme is demand-driven, and therefore the ministry assists SMEs as per request for assistance submitted to the ministerial scheme committee.

She stressed that the various equipment procured for the SMEs remain the property of the government.

“The government through the Ministry of Trade and Industry is availing the equipment to SMEs at free leasehold. However, the ministry is exploring the option of charging minimal fees to all beneficiaries under this scheme,” said Nashidengo.

She noted that the ministry has developed a monitoring and evaluation framework, through which the ministry, via its regional offices, monitors the usage of the equipment by the beneficiaries.

Nashidengo, however, said the current monitoring system is not intensive due to insufficient manpower.

She said in order to address this, the ministry is in the process of commissioning a national monitoring and evaluation committee to assess the usage and impact made by the scheme in terms of employment created, income generated, and any other challenges facing these SMEs.