Small business urged to work collectively

This was said by the entrepreneurs in the textile industry this week, at a training programme for the manufacture of apparel and folklore textiles in Botswana for capacity development in the garment sector.

The workshop was held at the Big Five Lodge to solicit ideas from the entrepreneurs in the development of the clusters.

The workshop was organised by the Integrated Field Services (IFS) Division of the Department of Industrial Affairs in the Ministry of Trade and Industry in conjunction with the University of Botswana.

The clusters are a bid by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and government to help revive the garment industry by grouping together the machines that had been previously obtained by individual operators through the Financial Assistance Policy and are now lying idle, as the businesses have gone under.

“We are frightened by the idea that as different people bring together their expertise to form a cluster, some will benefit financially more than others.

“As much as we know that people will be bringing different skills and that it is not possible to get the same money, it is still a threat to individuals who do not understand how it will work,” said one Matilda Mpai who specialises in knitwear.

Mpai explained that before they can cluster with other entrepreneurs, they would like to be given a tour of factories to get an idea of how factories work. She said that as individuals, they do not have the capacity to supply retail shops in large numbers as much as they would like to see their merchandise hanging in shops.

“We have learnt what we know from certain individuals that we used to work for and we do not have any idea of how business is like in the factories.

“We would like to have a tour and maybe then we will know how we can work in the clusters that we will form,” Mpai said.

Thabiso Dibeela asserted that they do not have the right machinery in pattern making to make their work efficient and faster to compete with other big factories.

“We are still far behind as far as our machines and systems are concerned. For example computerised-pattern making is more efficient than hand drawn patterns,” Dibeela said.

She said that clustering could help in curbing the high rate of unemployment for the graduates who have expertise in that field.

Most entrepreneurs agreed that as long as Batswana are taught to move away from thinking that clustering will be a way of cheating them, the idea could be a success. The workshop was held to source ideas on the level of skills and expectations of the Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on how to establish or improve performance on their business.

According to the director of IFS Banusi Jallow, “everybody has skills which are not the same.

“We wanted the ideas that the entrepreneurs may have that we might not have to make the clusters work and how government can make their expectations available,” Jallow said.

The workshop was also meant to identify the strengths that individuals and their communities have that will help to make the clusters work.

“We cannot talk about opportunities because they are there and that is why we are trying to help.

“Threats are necessary but they can be turned into opportunities as long as we learn how to work around them,” Jallow noted.

The participants comprised two aspiring entrepreneurs, eight practising SMEs whose businesses are doing well and eight practicing SMEs from existing clusters.

A similar workshop was held yesterday at Thapama Hotel in Francistown. ‘ mmegi.

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