United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Zimbabwe, Edward Kallon, expressed satisfaction at the ‘remarkable’ work done by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Bulawayo who with their income are able to take care of their families and fuel the city’s economic growth.
Kallon made these sentiments after touring informal trader units at the Metro Mini Factories on Friday where he interacted with some SME players, commending their work and ability to create employment for themselves.
“I am very happy that people are talking about business ideas and creating an incubation space for that. I think this is a good investment. It’s a good job,” said the UN resident coordinator.
“I’ve told you I have been around for a long time and this is the first time I have seen this. When we talk about SMES, we just read papers and a lot of publishing. Actually, (today) I’ve seen something.”
The Metro Mini Factories was recently refurbished using funding provided by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) working with partners to provide shelter for informal traders, part of the Bulawayo Chamber of SMEs, an organisation that represents workers in the informal economy –to promote higher productivity and better working conditions.
Chairperson of the Bulawayo Chamber of SMEs, Coustin Ngwenya, said before their partnership with ILO, the factory was an unfit space for human habitation.
“As SMES we had no choice because we wanted some where we could work from, so the coming in of ILO changed everything,” he said.
“The space used to be a big hole, so we partitioned it using anything we could lay our hands on and was not safe in terms of health. Electrical cables were hanging everywhere and one time we lost a life here through electrocution.”
Ngwenya said after the refurbishment, the working space is now attractive, able to attract all classes of customers.
He added SMEs were also proud of their workspace leading to improved productivity including promotion of work safety and health
“Before, one could not bring their family or children for shopping but now it has changed. ILO has assisted a lot through different programmes and besides this renovation, we have had training and we are now a professional organisation, with a full time thanks to ILO,” he said.
ILO Programme Coordinator, Future Sithole added that the organisation relied on partnerships to succeed.
“Part of the work we have done is to strengthen partnerships and we worked with the Bulawayo City Council, Junior Achievement Zimbabwe who provide business development services, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, as part and parcel of the overseer of the work that done as the informal economy. We also worked with the National University of Science and Technology because we wanted to bring in academia and is the one who did the architectural designs for this work space,” he said.
To promote private and public partnerships, Sithole said ILO worked with property mogul, Old Mutual, who are the owners of the property.
“We wanted them to realise their role in promoting the formalisation of the informal economy. As ILO, much of our mandate is to provide decent work and before there were many decent work deficits in the informal economy as highlighted by Ngwenya,” he said.
BCC City Planner, Shelton Sithole weighed it that the local authority appreciated partners such as the UN, ILO and other stakeholders who supported their policies.
“Currently the City of Bulawayo is engaged with a decentralisation policy. With the advent of Covid -19, you would know we tried as much to decongest the city with whatsoever activities. ILO with various UN divisions came in very handy to support us in those initiatives but also, we want to appreciate the team work that we experienced here in Bulawayo,” he said.
Sithole noted BCC would continue providing a conducive enabling facilitatory environment for the economies of the SMEs players and will support the informal sector.
Junior Achievement Zimbabwe representative, John Kennedy, also expressed gratitude saying the assistance boosted their work.
“We work mostly with young people providing business development services and provide three main focus areas – financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness. Under the project we are providing business development services to entrepreneurs with the aim of formalising their entities and have an added advantage when they do their business,” he said.