By Alois Vinga
BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) has committed to improving the ease of doing business of SMEs and other informal sector players amid accelerated plans to formalise the sector in the country’s second largest city.
The remarks come at a time when numerous efforts to formalise the informal sector have resisted due to the fear of paying numerous and repetitive licensing fees charged by local authorities and government agencies.
But speaking to NewZimbabwe.com during a media tour facilitated by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), BCC director for housing, Dictor Khumalo said the local authority remains committed to address bottlenecks prompting the sector’s players to shun formalising.
“Through current engagement with the SMEs and the informal sector I am certain that it will give us the opportunity to work together towards the reduction of the licencing fees to negotiated and reasonable levels,” Khumalo said.
“As the local authority we can discuss reviewing the rentals and rates being paid to spur growth in the sector but we cannot do much in addressing other fees which are not within our powers,” he said.
Working in partnership with the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) , National University of Science and Technology (NUST),Old Mutual and BCC , ILO managed to renovate the Bulawayo SME centre into a safe and conducive environment for decent work.
The project has seen the informal sector players operating at the centre receiving entrepreneurship training and being taught to adhere to Occupational Safety and Health standards.
“To this end ILO has opened our eyes prompting us to see the need to create an office within the BCC which deals directly with the SMEs and Informal sector. Going forward, we hope to address the challenges confronting the sectors through mutual engagements with the stakeholders,” said Khumalo.
The BCC official hailed the renovated centre for creating a model which will be referred to for future developments of SMEs and the informal sector.
“The refurbished centre has set a model and standard for an ideal environment which will be taken to other areas bearing in mind the need to engage and grow the sector,” he added.