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Building capacity of small and medium-sized businesses: the Zambia Chamber of Small and Medium Business Associations
The Zambia Chamber of Small and Medium Business Associations (ZCSMBA) was established in 2000 as a national body to represent the interests of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) in the country. It is a private organization driven by its 96 member associations representing more than 200,000 MSMEs.
Until 2009, Zambia had no policy on small and medium enterprises. The absence of a coherent and separate regulatory and fiscal regime, along with an unfriendly business environment, was the main obstacle to developing the small scale business sector in Zambia. ZCSMBA was established to provide a prominent forum through which business association leaders and members could advance and protect the interests of MSMEs in public policies, facilitate and stimulate the provision of demand-driven business development services to MSMEs by business associations, and develop an internal management and business development support system for dedicated and committed business associations.
In order for ZSCMBA to achieve its objectives; it has employed the following strategies: (i) invested in its staff members by increasing their skills and knowledge (ii) leveraged its partnerships with private sector organisations to increase the scope of services its members can get from them; (iii) undertaken issue based lobby and advocacy campaigns on issues identified by its wider membership; (iv) provided training to local trainers who understand the environment in their respective localities; (v) mobilized effectively its network of members spread across the whole country, (vi) participated in national and technical committees where relevant issues for its membership are discussed.
ZCSMBA and its member associations lobbied the Government of Zambia to develop an SME policy promoting a friendly business environment for SMEs. The Government approved and adopted the policy in 2009 and, for the first time, the country had a policy detailing interventions and initiatives specific to SMEs that would enhance and organise their contribution to the economy. With the policy in place, ZCSMBA also lobbied with the Government to improve access to the Citizen Economic Empowerment Fund, which had not been readily accessible to its members.
In 2009, ZCSMBA, in collaboration with the Zambia Business Forum, has also lobbied successfully the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry and the Lusaka City Council for a reduction in the license and permit fees charged on its members and other SMEs.
The project has helped to enhance the skills of its member associations. Between 2007 and 2010, some 1,000 entrepreneurs were trained in various business skills, such as developing business plans and leadership skills.
ZCSMBA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Savings and Credit Bank establishing a facility of US$500,000 for exclusive financing of ZCSMBA affiliated members at affordable interest rates and more relaxed lending terms.
Seven agribusiness centres located in rural areas provide information on market access for smallholder rural farmers. The centres are also used to train members in ICT skills. ZCSMBA has also developed the capacities of district business associations to write proposals. To date, one centre has successfully secured funding.
The project has mainstreamed gender in all its activities. This has included ensuring that at least 40 percent of project beneficiaries at all levels are female. This is in line with the proportion of female members in Business Associations affiliated with ZCSMBA. Of the 394 direct beneficiaries of various exchange visits and trainings, such as training in leadership skills, business proposal writing, business management, board roles and responsibilities, 180 have been women.
The project has significantly enhanced ZCSMBA’S institutional and human capacity. When the project started, ZCSMBA had five staff. It now has 15 full-time staff. The Chamber has also permanent and fully equipped offices, and other capital assets, including vehicles. This allows it to effectively and efficiently implement its activities and to communicate with its stakeholders.
Studies have assessed changes in the operating environment of small and medium enterprises. With the support of the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority, three district business associations were funded. They now have state-of-the-art, multipurpose telecentres where members can access Information.
ZCSMBA continues to play the role of middle-man between its member associations and the Government, linking members with service providers for the members’ various capacity needs.
Support to the capacity development process
ZCSMBA was formed by Zambian promoters who received catalytic funding from The African Capacity Building Foundation. Its members comprising indigenous SMEs have contributed their own resources to make the public-private interface forum operational. ZCSMBA has also managed to attract financing from the Zambia Governance Fund.
Development partners’ support
A number of donors are financially supporting ZCSMBA, which has managed to raise $1.5 million to date. Financing from the International Finance Corporation has been used to help prepare ZCSMBA’s strategic plan and other capacity building needs. The European Commission has co-financed some of ZCSMBA’s projects, including the construction of a resource centre for small and medium enterprises. ACBF funding has enabled computers, furniture, and literature to be purchased for the centre. The Canadian International Development Agency have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, through International Trade Centre, and have contributed (US)$28,000 towards training women exporters.
Other partners were expected to add their support during 2011, including the governments of Saudi Arabia and Finland, the African Development Bank, and the Trade Facilitation Office of Canada.
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Year of publication:2011
Collection:LenCD "Capacity: Results"
Themes and sectors:Economic development
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