Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) must embrace information and communication technology (ICT) and be organised to take opportunities in value addition, a business expert has said.
Umodzi Consulting management consultant Tione Kaonga, reacting to a recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in an interview on Tuesday, said enterprises can benefit greatly through record keeping, cost analysis and financial management.
“People can create wealth from either entrepreneurship or agriculture however, businesses in Malawi need to organise ourselves. Malawi being an agro-based economy we need extension services that will ensure that our produce meet quality and quantity requirements. This is why some retail shops import irish potatoes because our farmers cannot meet quantity and quality requirements.
“We also need to embrace the use of technology through access to markets and transfer of finance and use available technology to the optimum. As a country we also need to improve our infrastructure such as in information communication technology (ICT), road and rail network because for businesses these have a direct bearing on competitiveness and access to markets,” said Kaonga.
The UNDP report, released on May 10 titled “Realising Africa’s Wealth – Building Inclusive Businesses for Shared Prosperity” draws upon 43 in-depth case studies and a database of 600 institutions to portray the state of inclusive business in Africa by looking at a wide spectrum of sectors from banking to agribusiness.
The report is the first UNDP study to look specifically at inclusive businesses in sub-Saharan Africa and the region’s inclusive business support systems.
The report notes that building even a small-scale inclusive business requires a large amount of information.
“Access to information in Africa remains constrained by a lack of communications connectivity, and that data specifically related to the low-income market is limited. The lack of connectivity presents a particular challenge in today’s environment. To be sure, the “mobile revolution” has certainly reached Africa, with mobile phone penetration rates soaring from less than 2 percent in 2000 to more than 60 percent in 2013. However, regular internet connectivity, which enables quick access to a vast amount of information, was limited to an estimated 13.5 percent,” reads the report in part.
The UNDP report adds that most African countries have limited capacity to produce or compile usable macro- and microeconomic data, and what is available may be out of date or difficult to access.