…Equipment aid scheme to return
President Hage Geingob’s suspended multimillion equipment aid scheme will be back, but not before certain shortcomings have been attended to.
In November last year, the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development suspended-albeit temporarily-to attend to the application backlogs and financing of the project.
Geingob initiated the scheme during his time as Minister of Trade and Industry(now Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development) to assist small businesses in the form of equipment and other technology as per requirement to SMEs in order for them to effectively run their business and subsequently create employment.
Having supported over 750 needy SMEs across the country with equipment worth over N$65 million since its inception in 2009, last year the ministry pulled the plug on the scheme.
“We stopped it because we wanted to address the backlog that existed at the time. But we can assure the nation that the scheme will be back,” said the ministry’s permanent secretary Gabriel Sinimbo.
Sinimbo said the ministry observed that some of the applicants merely apply for assistance for the sake of doing so.
“People must apply with the intention of producing and delivering services, not just for sake of it. We have noted in some cases where people apply and end up not delivering. This scheme is meant to help needy people to create employment for themselves and others and contribute to poverty eradication,” Sinimbo said.
During its second coming, Sinimbo said the scheme will be strictly control.
“People were just applying at any given time because there was no application period set, this disadvantaged the ministry when it comes to evaluating applications and monitoring the projects that received assistance,” he said.
According to Sinimbo: “By adopting an application window, we will address the issue of backlogs and it will give us a chance to order the requested equipment in bulk instead of ordering bit by bit, by doing so we might also qualify for discounts from the suppliers.”
Sinimbo also urged those seeking assistance to thoroughly do a market analysis in their communities to avoid saturating the market with the same products.
“We want the applications to be diverse, it will be of no use providing the same equipment to SMEs operating in the same market,” said the PS.
Since the start of the scheme, the Ministry procured and provided production equipment and machinery to 743 needy SMEs in the 14 national regions in the areas of construction and brick making; auto-motive repairs, air-conditioning and refrigeration repairs, garment, manufacturing agro food processing; and joinery.
Last year Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s northern branch proposed that the Equipment Aid Scheme be decentralised in an effort to improve response times, and better serve the needs of the regional communities.
“A regional Equipment Aid Scheme Committee should be established in all 14 regions. The Equipment Aid Scheme needs to expand the service offerings that accompany the equipment grant,” proposed NCCI.
It also wants training and maintenance programmes for the granted equipment. The equipment must be vetted to ensure the quality of equipment and that it can serve the intended purpose.