MINISTER of Small and Medium Enterprises Elias Mubanga says his ministry will start giving out empowerment funds between May and June this year.

In an interview, Thursday, Mubanga said consultations were ongoing with relevant stakeholders in order to come up with policies which would benefit SMEs.

“Right now we are consulting with stakeholders, there is a meeting going on in Lusaka right now and we should be able to finish. So my permanent secretary and directors are reviewing the SME policies. We want to make sure we come up with a policy that will favour SMEs. We were also working with the Ministry of Science and Technology, we identify before any financial support to SMEs. Most of them need to undergo some skill training so that when we start giving empowerment, especially in the next month, we know we are giving SMEs who have gone through skills programmes,” he said.

“Yes, we have got those already in business. We still wanted to say, first we need to take stock of every SME in the country so that we understand. Yes, the empowerment programme is starting, probably giving out start-up capital, we have got a lot of applications, we first wanted to review and to go through what was being done to take stock. Now by May, June we should be able to start giving out empowerments to our people.”

Mubanga said empowerment schemes which were given available during the previous regime did not achieve much.

“You know when the ministry was created and empowerment programmes were under my ministry, it is not necessarily that we are supposed to be dishing out money, and to SMEs. Basically yes, that is part of the programme but you know we were first and foremost in the stage of establishing ourselves and we are just talking about seven to eight months. Then we started working on our programmes in January and this is just April,” he said.

“So far, what we identified was the empowerment which was given then achieved nothing. We had to take stock of what was happening, how the empowerment was given to the young people especially. But in the first quarter of our budget, what we looked into was SMEs were not emphasised and there were a lot of challenges they have been going through. So we have been looking into policies, the act so that it can suit the SMEs. We can help to develop the businesses.”

Mubanga observed that this was because most beneficiaries lacked information on how to operate their businesses.

“First and foremost, the challenge was that I think people who are not in SME business do not really understand what it means to be in business. And that’s probably why we did not achieve a lot in the previous government. So we found out that we needed to give people the understanding, especially those that are interested in starting up a business, even those that are trying to grow their business,” said Mubanga.

“You know, in our findings, I was in Ndola. I will give an example of when I was speaking to the Ndola Chamber of Commerce. There was a meeting organised by Mopani and a financing company. Some people came out and said they have been in business for quite some time but they are not growing. So those are the examples. We found out that you might be in a business and that that business you cannot run it, so probably you needed to do something else.”