South Africa and Zimbabwe have signed a statement of intent to identify ways of supporting and developing small enterprises and cooperatives in both countries.


The signing took place in Harare on Tuesday, and was witnessed by Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Elizabeth Thabethe and Zimbabwe’s minister of small enterprises and cooperatives, Sithembiso Nyoni.


Thabethe, accompanied by a 40-member South African business delegation, is currently leading her fourth Investment and Trade Initiative to Zimbabwe.


Facilitating trade among cooperatives


According to Tuesday’s agreement, a team responsible for cooperative development in South Africa will visit Zimbabwe by February to study the setting up of a cooperative training academy in that country, explore areas of commodity exchanges, and facilitate trade among cooperatives from both countries.


The group will also study the 1st Choice Wholesalers concept, a franchise that facilitates relationships between small manufacturers, suppliers and cooperatives, especially in rural areas, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said on Wednesday.


“The two countries also agreed that South Africa will look into the possibility of sending its small enterprises or recently qualified graduates to be trained at the Indo-Zimbabwe Technology Centres by 2014, while officials responsible for enterprise and cooperatives development in Zimbabwe, and chamber representatives will study the incubation models in South Africa,” Thabethe said in a statement.


“Zimbabwean small enterprises will also have an opportunity to be incubated in South Africa by the end of 2013.”


‘A lot to learn from each other’


Thabethe said the agreement showed that South Africa and Zimbabwe had a lot to learn from each other.


“The expected beneficiaries of these visits and interaction between governments will be businesspeople themselves. There is a lot that our countries can cooperate in for the development of our small business sector.”


She added that South Africa’s Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) and the Small Enterprises Development Corporation of Zimbabwe will soon meet to discuss areas of cooperation and the possible signing of a memorandum of understanding by the end of this year.


The Department of Trade and Industry’s Investment and Trade Initiatives are part of its drive to create investment and export opportunities for South African companies in targeted high-growth markets.


Thabethe has in recent months led South Africa business delegations on a number of such missions, to countries including Gabon, Cameroon, Benin and the DRC.


SAinfo reporter