Malawi has drafted a new policy for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which will guide the sector for the next five years.
The exercise follows a review that began in July last year and involved major stakeholders in the SME sector, including government institutions, development partners, private sector players and civil society.
The stakeholders convened in Lilongwe on Wednesday for a final national conference on the draft policy and strategy to have an opportunity to consider endorsing and validating the findings, recommendations and priorities of the new document.
The drafting of a new SME policy and strategy comes also at a time when Malawi has seen a proliferation of institutions, programmes and donor driven activities that have provided overlapping mandates and policies or strategies for the sector.
It also comes at a time when President Joyce Banda is placing special emphasis on the development of the MSME sector as an important initiative towards poverty eradication through the empowerment of disadvantaged Malawians.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Nebert Nyirenda, told Business News on the sidelines of the conference that the revision of the policy means taking off obsolete contents in the wake of new innovations that have emerged in the SME sector.
Said Nyirenda: “This has changed economically, politically and business wise. We are keen to see that the MSME sector is repositioned so that it can play its rightful role both on the local and global stages.”
He said government is convinced that micro, small and medium enterprise sector in the country, though fairly young, is a crucial sector with enormous potential to transform lives of many economically disadvantaged Malawians.
He told the gathering that research has shown that Malawian MSMEs significantly contribute to employment creation, among other benefits.
Nyirenda stated that the new policy will ensure that the ordinary citizens are placed at the centre of economic development through the benefit of local resources.
The principal secretary also explained that the finalisation of the review of the MSME policy and strategy will give the sector a special place within the national development agenda.
According to Nyirenda, the draft policy is consistent with Malawiâ€™s major medium and long term strategy, the Second Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS II).
He, however, said once consultations are done, the draft policy will go through government machinery before Cabinet approval and implementation.
Roland Charles, an adviser for Enterprise Development from the Commonwealth Secretariat which provided financial and technical support towards the development of the new policy, noted that the policy will enable MSMEs to be competitive, profitable and sustainable.
“In many developing countries, innovation through adaptation of ideas and processes has driven development, and much of this diffusion takes place through small firms,” said Charles.
He noted that promoting small enterprises is one way of ensuring that economic growth trickles down to the poor masses.
He tipped Malawi that SME development should have a major role in any development strategy “as it is one of the few areas in which growth, development and redistribution interact and overlap.”