So I must start by stating two things. The first is the obvious fact that Mthuli Ncube is the man of the moment right now. We may not agree with him every time but we are all watching him.
I am one of those that came out guns blazing when he announced the infamous transaction tax which might not even be legal at least not yet it turns out. However, I have to be clear I have nothing against the man. In fact I want him to succeed because of course if he succeeds things will become better for every Zimbabwean. This is the second thing I wanted to make clear.
Now to the story: the Minister of Finance today held a consultative meeting with 50 small and medium sized businesses from across the country. This then means I jumped the cart when I accused him of consulting with just the so called captains of industry and not small businesses.
The group he met had a bias towards informal players
As per press release:
50 members of SMEs that came to meet with the minister of finance came from all spectrums of the economy, including representatives from the SME Zimbabwe Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises, Zimbabwe Cross border Trade Association, SME Association Zimbabwe, Employers Council of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Informal Traders Association, Zimbabwe Miners Federation, Zimbabwe Women Association,
Zimbabwe Women in Construction Industry, Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations and Zimbabwe Vendors Association.
I have deep respect for informal business people. These are the people who are keeping kids in school, meals on tables and for all intents and purposes the wheels of the nation turning.
According to the press release, this is what they discussed:
SMEs raised some of the main issues they are facing operating in Zimbabwe and requested the intervention of the minister. Some of the key issues raised include difficult access to cheaper finance from banks and lack of resources to expand their enterprises.
SMEs are not startups
There is still need for the minister to meet startups. Not every small business is a startup. A startup is ‘by definition’ a business that can scale. Most startups are tech startups that’s why you find that the word startup has somewhat become synonymous with tech startup.
This is because tech allows scale. All tech essentially but of course the word tech itself has become synonymous with ICT. Anyhow, not all SMEs are startups even though startups are SMEs. The spectrum of businesses that Ncube met above are not startups all of them.
I risk sounding cocky but that’s not it at all. Startups are different from the traditional SMEs and informal businesses that the minister met. Our needs are different, our opportunities are different.
We will be proactive
We think it’s important that we engage with government as startups too. Not from the usual position in Zimbabwe yekuti ko isu ma youth murikuda kutiitirei (us the youth, what will you do for us)? It has to be a serious meeting about what we see and also getting to understand what the government sees and how those perspectives can be reconciled into a cohesive vision for the startup ecosystem.
We will perhaps ask around and see if there is interest by startups to meet with the minister and we can formally request for one. I am hesitant to say ‘we will’ in certain terms because that’s how promises are made and broken. If any such will happen we will be sure to update you here