Panashe Nyamudeza-Business Reporter
The Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Zimbabwe (SMEAZ) will this month launch the SMEAZ Funding & Financial Inclusion Symposium, to discuss topical issues regarding access to funding and other financial services.
The two-day symposium will be held from April 21 to 22, 2022 at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC).
Deliberations at the event are expected to cover two key activities, an open exhibition that features providers of financial services that will showcase their products and services to MSMEs, as well as conference sessions where topical issues around SME financial services will be discussed.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, ministries, financial institutions, and MSMEs themselves will all be present to discuss sticking issues and hopefully resolve them, also various speakers from the pension funds and asset management industries are expected to attend the conference.
Other issues such as access to foreign currency, access by women, youth, the disabled and financial inclusion, in general, will be discussed during the conference.
In a statement, SMEAZ chief executive officer Farai Mutambanengwe underlined that the association decided to host the event to offer a platform where different stakeholders in the SME financial services ecosystem can meet, and also where SMEs can engage directly with funding institutions.
Mr Mutambanengwe said the event is being done over a two-day period to give MSMEs enough time to interact with financial services providers and to cover a wide range of issues related to financial inclusion issues.
“MSMEs have for long been lamenting the lack of access to financial services, yet on the other hand the Reserve Bank and Ministry of Finance have been announcing facilities for SMEs on an annual basis and we get statistics indicating that numbers of SMEs accessing facilities are increasing, yet within our membership virtually no one has managed to access the said facilities,” he said.
“We are expecting that by the end of the Symposium there will be a better understanding by all parties of where the bottlenecks are, and what needs to be done to clear them,” he said.
Mr Mutambanengwe further outlined that MSMEs will gain the opportunity to directly meet with the appropriate staff responsible for granting facilities from the financial institutions.
“Very often when an SME walks into a bank, their conversations are limited to the front office personnel but this event will enable them to talk to the credit analysts and actual staff that handle the loans,” said Mr Mutambanengwe.
According to Zimstat, the share of employment in the informal (non-agriculture) sector to the country’s employment levels is estimated at 46 percent.
The total number of employed persons was estimated at 3,0 million as per the 2021 fourth quarter labour force survey conducted by Zimstat.