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SMEs rate 2022 as mixed bag

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James Chiutsi

The Malawi Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (Musme) and the SME Chamber have described 2022 as a mixed bag, saying effects of the Russo-Ukrainian War weighed down heavily on most local businesses.

They say most small-scale businesses were also still nursing effects of the Covid pandemic.

The SMEs sector representative bodies also cite a slowdown in business in the hospitality sector which affected the supply chain, worsened foreign exchange shortages, and lack of access to finance among challenges experienced.

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In an interview, Musme President Barbara Banda said women were disproportionately affected because their businesses are even smaller and those that had loans to repay had to negotiate for debt restructuring.

“We need to really be focusing on recovery by putting austerity measures that really focus on giving back to SMEs and only the government can do that.

“SMEs are crucial because they contribute 40 percent of the gross domestic product of this country and provide 24 percent employment opportunities,” Banda said.

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In a separate interview, SME Chamber Executive Director James Chiutsi said bureaucracy in government still impinges registration of SMEs and that some agencies entrusted with developing the sector did not do enough.

“As a chamber, we have a number of cooperatives that wanted to register with the Department of Cooperatives but there are costs and some rigid processes that are drawing the sector back.

“There is still no collaboration between government departments that help SMEs grow.

This is the reason we are failing to aggressively enter international markets, for example the South Sudan deal. We cannot produce the desired quality and quantity when there is not much being done to develop the SME sector,” Chiutsi said.

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