The joint expert group meeting on the role of small and medium enterprises in the industrialization process in Southern Africa ended here with a clarion call from Mauritius for African leaders to walk the talk on agreed programmes that will change the lives of ordinary people on the ground.
In his closing remarks, Anil Kumar Kokil, a Director in the Finance and Economic Ministry of Mauritius, said African leaders and experts have taken firm action to tackle the continent’s problems but now needed to move to the next level of implementing agreed programmes and protocols that he said will no doubt change the fortunes of Africa.
“We can talk and talk but will remain stagnant as a continent if we do not take initiative like what the done by Asian leaders. They implemented their action plans. We need to stop discussing and have action on the ground fast if we are going to eliminate poverty by bringing inclusive development,” said Mr. Kokil.
He said Africa had enough resources that can be harnessed if all nations collaborated sincerely in win-win situations for the benefit of its citizens.
“Winds of change will not come to the continent if our leaders do not take us to the next level where we can create wealth for our nations. We need to complete things by implementing what we agree on; we know where we want to go so let’s put our heads together to develop and implement what we agree on and create the Africa we want.”
“As Mauritius we are determined to make things happen for our nation and we would want to do this along with our African brothers and sisters that’s why we are saying Africa must wake up and see that winds of change are blowing the world over. Focus is on us as the next frontier.”
Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Director for the Southern African region, Said Adejumobi, agreed with Mr. Kokil that leadership was crucial for Africa to take the continent to the next level.
“I must say that we have learnt a lot from our colleagues here in Mauritius during this meeting. The quality of leadership in this country is very high, the engagement of Cabinet ministers was also very high. Leadership is key to the process of socio-economic transformation,” he said.
Participants agreed that member States should harmonize definitions of SMEs to facilitate regional comparisons and development of appropriate support mechanisms; incentivize FDI to embark on forward and backward linkages with local SMEs, supported by fair competition policies among other SME support instruments; and introduce policies that facilitate the participation of SMEs in both public and private procurement as a tool to support SMEs to both grow and to register as formal entities.
The experts also agreed that SME umbrella bodies should agree on a unified approach to government to advance their interests; take stock of membership as proof of economic and social impact, thus reducing anecdotal evidence and improving their influence in the policy-making space.
Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and member States should tailor financial services (loans, insurance, cross-border trade) to the needs of the SMEs; take the lead in developing detailed strategy for SMEs in the region in support of regional industrialization agenda; involve SMEs in regional policy-making and setting minimum requirements for participation in government procurement systems; and SMEs were encouraged to form regional networks to collectively influence government and regional policies.