Harness local raw materials to make unique products for export, SMEs urged

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By James Muonwa I Mashonaland West Correspondent

MICRO as well as small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have been called upon to make use of cheap locally available raw materials to manufacture unique products for export markets.

Innovators must also register trademarks and patents to protect their ingenuity, as well as operate businesses legally and pay taxes.

This was said by Professor Marian Tukuta, Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) dean of Business Sciences and Entrepreneurship during the inaugural Hurungwe Chamber of SMEs Expo, which ended at the weekend.

“There are lots of raw materials at our disposal, especially for those in the arts and crafts sector who can use pods, seeds and other natural elements to make unique jewellery for export,” said Tukuta.

She emphasised strengthening value chains, particularly in the agriculture  which is the country’s anchor sector.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event last Thursday, Hurungwe Chamber of SMEs chairperson, Mildred Mhande-Makokola, said emerging business owners needed to grow linkages with like-minded entities in their respective value chains and promote investments in marginalised areas.

“Apart from exhibiting local products and services we are promoting rural industrialisation which is in line with National Development Strategy (NDS1),” she said.

A Zambian delegate, George Siameja, of DSIK, a German organisation for international cooperation, reiterated the need to inculcate financial literacy among SME operators.

Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, in a speech read on her behalf, said the MSMEs has grown over the years to become an engine for sustainable economic growth contributing over 76% of employment and 60% of Zimbabwe’s GDP.

“Hurungwe Chamber of SMEs Business Expo is being launched this year for the first time and will create a great opportunity for business networking of local enterprises, regional, especially Zambia enterprises, including women, youth and community groups with other large corporates and tourists since Hurungwe has Mana Pools, and other small safaris in Chirundu and the Zambezi escarpment,” she said.

Mliswa-Chikoka highlighted that despite the significant dominance of SMEs in the sector, they face a myriad of challenges that include limited access to finance, inadequate and costly work spaces, lack of proper technologies and machinery and inadequate skills.

The expo was the first of its kind to be held in Karoi.