The SME Association of Zimbabwe was formed in December 2011 out of a realisation that there were severe problems being faced by the SME sector in Zimbabwe, that were not being addressed due to the lack of a strong representative organisation. It originally began as a LinkedIn group of similar-minded business people. That group now has an ever-increasing membership in excess of 600 entrepreneurs.
It was registered as a not-for-profit trust (Registration Number 185/2012) in February 2012, after it was felt that the needs and aspirations of SMEs would best be represented by a legitimate, recognised body. This was followed up by the securing of offices in March 2012, and the development of a stand-alone website in April 2012.
While there are several organisations that claim to represent SMEs, most of these in reality are focused on micro-enterprises. They have also failed to establish themselves visibly, and have also failed to roll out programs that address the present nagging issues faced by the sector. At the other end of the scale, large business representative groups have likewise claimed to represent SMEs, but in reality have focused on the needs of big business. Their membership fees are also discriminatory in this respect, as small-scale enterprises cannot afford them.
The SME Association of Zimbabwe is therefore meant to cover this middle ground. Our definition of small (turnover less than $240 000 or assets less than $100 000) and medium enterprises (turnover and assets above the thresholds for small enterprises, but less than $1 million each) ensures we cover the hitherto neglected areas mentioned above.
It is an established fact that SMEs contribute at least 50% of GDP in developing and developed economies. The Association therefore aims to ensure that not only do SME contribute their 50% plus to Zimbabwe's economy, but that they grow to become large enterprises, to ensure the country's economic prosperity.
The Association offers several benefits to its members, which include raising capital, creating markets, training and development and teaching of business best practice. It also acts as a focal point for lobbying and advocacy activity for the SME sector.
Its objectives are achieved through several sub-committees. Each sub-committee focuses on a particular aspect of SME activity, and is manned by specialist entrepreneurs in the particular field. Thus, the Association is able to achieve a broad yet specialised coverage of all areas of concern to SMEs.