Namibia relaunches scheme to support small, medium enterprises

WINDHOEK, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Namibia on Thursday relaunched a revamped scheme to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) faced with challenging economic conditions.

The scheme, titled SME Economic Recovery Scheme, was jointly unveiled by the Bank of Namibia, the country's central bank, and the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises at an event held in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. It is an offshoot of the initial COVID-19 SME Loan scheme that was previously launched two years ago but failed to deliver its intended outcome.

The Bank of Namibia Governor Johannes Gawaxab said at the launch that a total loan amount of 500 million Namibia dollars (about 29.36 million U.S. dollars) was availed through the COVID-19 SME Loan scheme accessible to SMEs via participating banking institutions.

"However, since the scheme's inception, only a total of 6.4 million Namibia dollars was utilized for this purpose, despite the pleas from SMEs to access financing," he said.

The revamped scheme is designed to be more inclusive and accommodating and provide general support to this vital sector that is not merely limited to addressing the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gawaxab said.

"As we navigate our way back to economic recovery and sustainable economic development after COVID-19, the relaunch of the scheme in its modified form is both timely and appropriate," he stressed.

Speaking at the launch, Finance Ministry's Deputy Minister Maureen Hinda-Mbuende said the revamped scheme is testimony to what can be achieved when different segments of society join hands and work together.

According to Hinda-Mbuende, the relaunch marks a key milestone, but the ultimate work in the form of implementation is only just starting.

Meanwhile, Gawaxab said placing Namibia on a sustained path of revival required collective and extraordinary efforts, including a rejuvenated SME sector that is crucial to collective success.

"SMEs play a vital role in any nation's economic advancement and employment creation, as they are the economy and job creation's lifeblood," he said.

According to data from the World Bank, SMEs represent around 90 percent of businesses and more than 50 percent of employment worldwide, with these figures being even more pronounced for developing economies.

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