THE COMESA Business Council (CBC) working with the private sector has launched a technical capacity strengthening project to empower Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) in standards and food safety management systems.
The programme, known as the Local Sourcing for Partnerships Project (LSPP), aims at helping SMEs to effectively participate in trade by addressing constraints which prevent them from being integrated into national and regional supply chains.
The project will first be piloted in six COMESA countries namely Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.
As part of the implementation plan, the CBC convened the first quarterly meeting of the steering committee of the LSPP in Lusaka.
It is composed of key private sector stakeholders from the COMESA region with a mandate to provide guidance on pertinent issues related to this project in the area of policy, objectives, budget, strategies and resource allocation.
The CBC also entered into agreements with hotels namely Serena Group of Hotels in Kampala, Kenya and Rwanda as well as Protea Uganda and Zambia to facilitate this market linkage.
The result of this programme is to encourage companies to source within the region from efficiently managed and standardized SME suppliers and in turn access inputs faster and cheaper.
CBC chairperson Dr Amany Asfour said through the Local Sourcing for Partnerships Project, food suppliers would be trained on key standard requirements and food safety management systems.
She said it was necessary for CBC to competitively integrate into the supply chains of the hospitality and other potential markets for the SME businesses.
“Most businesses face various challenges in meeting this intent, key of which is the future to meet standard requirements of the expected product and service, access to finance and other supply side and production related constraints,” she said.
Dr Asfour added that the LSPP would also focus on market linkages integrating the agro-food suppliers into supply chains once they have been trained.
“This project is an innovative strategy to ensure public private partnerships and SME participation in regional value chains,” she said.
Acting COMESA secretary general Ambassador Dr Kipyego Cheluget, who officially opened the meeting, affirmed COMESA’s commitment to work with the private sector in promoting SME development, the private sector and sustainable development for regional integration.
Dr Cheluget described the CBC Local Sourcing for Partnerships Project as commendable and a practical approach which will ensure intended goals are met.