Barclays trains SMEs

SHARE   |   Sunday, 06 July 2014   |   By Shingirai Madondo
Van der Merwe Van der Merwe

A select number of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the northern part of the country spend last Thursday interacting with Barclays Bank Botswana executives, developing and honing their skills in the areas of business strategy development.

Barclays arranged this to offer financial literacy to small business operators in the northern part of the country in case they have failed to be enrolled under the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) workshops, the bank’s officials said.

Barclays Botswana Managing Director Reinette van der Merwe said improved financial literacy is vital in creating mutual business cooperation between financial institutions in commercial banks and their clients.

Under their corporate business where the SMEs sit, van der Merwe said they have set themselves priorities chief amongst those being to help their customers to create long lasting wealth. “Whereas lack of funds has always been a problem to SMEs growth, we all know that even where funds are available there are instances where such funds are not used for the specific intention. This tells me that we may not need just the funds but also to provide the financial literacy and entrepreneurial coaching to beneficiaries of our funding,” added van der Merwe.

She said the launch of the bank’s SMEs value proposition came after successfully introducing it in March this year. It is her belief that the new product will go a long way in supporting SMEs sector development as well as economic diversification and growth. “This new proposition is a transformation of our Local Business offering which has now been broadened following extensive customer feedback. It further aligns the bank to government initiatives on economic diversification, creation of sustainable enterprises and employment creation,” said van der Merwe.

In the few months that van der Merwe has been in Botswana, she has committed a sizeable amount of her time to familiarise herself with the business sector and the government’s development planning. She has noted the resilience of the government in the fight against poverty as well as fostering of sustainable growth of small enterprises through projects that the current administration has put in place.

“I believe also that this product will contribute significantly to the strengthening of the competitiveness of small to medium enterprises in this country thereby facilitating quality services and products,” van der Merwe said. Barclays is committed to helping Batswana achieve their ambitions in the right way, saying her bank’s policy is not to be viewed as a financial institution but mostly as a solution provider for this country’s citizens.

Under the new enterprise banking customer value proposition, small businesses will be those customers whose annual turnover is up to P10 million while the medium businesses will be those whose annual turnover is in the range of P10 million to P25 million. For her part, the deputy City of Francistown Mayor Joyce Ndove said the growth and development of the SMEs sector is vital for the country’s economic growth as well as for economic diversification drive.

“SMEs sector has proven to be an important drive of economic growth and employment creation across the world. Botswana is not an exception as research has shown that nearly 90 percent of all registered businesses are SMEs and employ over 300 000 people both formally and informally,” she said. According to Ndove, the statistics present a compelling case for the SMEs to be integrated into the country’s developmental plan as an engine of economic growth. This, she said, involves creating an enabling environment for doing business in Botswana.

Ndove sees the coming on board of Barclays as a noble gesture that will and should augment the existing key players in the sector such as Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and LEA.