ITC launches report: 'Promoting SME Competitiveness in Zimbabwe'

19 October 2023
ITC News

Deputy Executive Director Dorothy Tembo's remarks at the launch event during the ZimTrade Annual Exporters’ Conference.

Honourable Minister Mutsvangwa, Mr. Msipa, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you on behalf of the International Trade Centre to the launch of the report “Promoting SME Competitiveness in Zimbabwe,” which was made possible through our collaboration with the National Competitiveness Commission.

As the UN small business agency, the competitiveness of SMEs lies at the heart of what we do. These businesses drive economies, create jobs, and contribute to their communities. To support them, we work with governments, the private sector, and other partners to help ensure these SMEs are best placed to access markets and export. Our work is premised on connectivity, inclusion, and sustainability, which is why we place a particular emphasis on supporting SMEs led and owned by women, young people, and disadvantaged communities.

Today, I’ll highlight briefly what we’ve learned about Zimbabwe’s SMEs and what they need to thrive. I’ll show this through the data that informed our new report, and I’ll close with a few thoughts on why this data matters for policy.

At ITC, we’ve worked extensively throughout Africa, including in Zimbabwe, where SMEs account for 9 out of every 10 businesses. Along with providing crucial jobs for much of the country’s workforce, these SMEs support the livelihoods of the country’s most vulnerable. We provide national-level and sector-specific expertise to help these SMEs export, knowing that this will help stimulate growth and achieve development goals, in line with Zimbabwe’s National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025). But for these objectives to be fully realized, SME competitiveness from the regional to global levels is key. And we’ve seen how the support of institutions like ZimTrade, the National Competitiveness Commission, and many others can help.

SMEs have played a valuable role in Zimbabwe in the years since independence, helping the economy diversify to incorporate new activities. And our research shows that there are exciting opportunities on the horizon to build on this progress, capitalizing on the private sector’s inherent strengths and on Zimbabwe’s trading relationships. But to realize this vision, we need to better understand the challenges that local SMEs face, especially as many are based in remote areas and may be struggling with specific problems. We need to hear from them about their most pressing needs, which can help policymakers and private sector entities take the right steps to support them.

That’s why NCC and ITC came together to assess the competitiveness of Zimbabwe’s SMEs. NCC interviewed hundreds of enterprises, based on our SME Competitiveness questionnaire, which is informed by nearly 60 years of on-the-ground ITC experience helping SMEs enter and compete in global markets. The questionnaire provides a nuanced picture of the capacity of a country’s private sector to be competitive on the national and international stage.

Our new report presents and analyzes this survey data, providing concrete evidence on what Zimbabwe’s businesses need and why. It shows that by improving access to digital technologies and business support networks, and with the right policy environment, Zimbabwean SMEs can unleash their full potential, leading to more exports, more jobs, and more progress towards inclusive and transformative development. ITC, NCC, and the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community and SME Development share a common vision of building SME competitiveness so they can access more and better markets. We are proud to support, through this report, Zimbabwe’s efforts to make this vision a reality.

Tatenda, siyabonga, thank you.