October 16, 2019
By Mohamed Massaquoi
The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDA) yesterday started a two- week training program for small and medium enterprises from Kenema, Kailahun and Kono districts for the eastern region and Bo, Moyamba, Pujehun, and Bonthe districts for the southern region respectively.
Giving an overview of the training, the Chief Executive Officer of SMEDA,Siaka Sannoh said successful entrepreneurs across the world have the power to generate new jobs through the creation and growth of micro-and small businesses, and that it is estimated that billions of additional dollars can increase gross national product through increased women’s entrepreneurship.
In Sierra Leone, he said women represent a large untapped market as emerging business leaders and that 50.09% of the country’s population is mostly women and youth.
“It is stated that investment in entrepreneurship targeting women is significant in harnessing the country’s growth and development because entrepreneurship creates job opportunities, private sector development, and wealth creation. Women’s participation in entrepreneurship can enhance the expansion of economic goods and simultaneously lead to less inequality thus increasing women’s participation in entrepreneurship necessitates improved access to credit facilities, and investment in sectors with high job-multiplier effects, including Information and Communications, Technology (ICT), manufacturing, agriculture and agro-industries in order to generate employment and spur inclusive growth. SMEDA was created by an Act of Parliament to coordinate the activities of small and medium business with other development partners. Over the years we have noticed that women are in active businesses but have always suffered and this is the time they have to benefit from their struggles thus building their financial capacity,” he said.
He said government has studied the landscape of SMEs and realized that most of those business owners will ask for resources through microcredit, but that they lack the capacity to effectively manage their businesses.
He said a lot of them are challenged with developing business plans, proper financial records and that it was against that backdrop that they developed the training for entrepreneurs.
He said the program was initially developed to address the shortcomings of standard business skills training programmes in tackling the needs of women with low literacy levels.
“It therefore seeks to give women the necessary support to start and grow thriving small businesses as articulated by the New Direction women economic empowerment initiatives,” he said, adding that the training differs from the normal conventional business training programmes as it seeks to develop entrepreneurship skills from a gender perspective.
“In Sierra Leone, the private sector is characterized by a large number of micro-enterprises. Official estimates indicate that only 5 percent of the economic workforce is in paid formal sector. This means that 95 percent of the economy is in the informal sector. Approximately, 84 percent of rural women and 63 percent of urban women operate micro-enterprises such as small-scale farming, table-top trading, artisanal mining, and small-scale fishing. Therefore, empowering women to become not only wage-earners but also job-creators is imperative for achieving the 2030 Agenda and for eradicating poverty. Entrepreneurship is one of the most impactful steps we can take in addressing some of the disparities we see today adding that investing in women’s economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Despite this fact that we know women can and do play significant role in driving local and national economies, diverse barriers often hinder their potential. Therefore, the training programme attempts to address some of these barriers by providing basic skills for management of a business, as well as for leadership and effective communication. The Gender and Entrepreneurship Together, or GET Ahead’ training programme, aims to support women owned enterprises in their efforts to start and grow thriving small business. The underlining goal for the training is to provide better access to business management skills training for women, using interactive and hands-on activities. The training also aims at providing good and effective communication skills, marketing operations and market information, finance, people and risk management and decision making power,” he said and called on participants to take the training seriously.ss