Micro and Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs) occupy a dominant position in almost all economies of the world. SMEs usually comprise about 99 percent of all enterprises, account for around 50 percent of manufacturing output and between 40 to 70 percent of employment. Besides, SMEs have been making a substantial contribution to exports. They are recognized as engines of economic growth and second largest employer following agriculture the world over. It has been widely acknowledged that sustainable development and inclusive growth will happen only if SME promotion is added to the social policies and support programmes of a country.
Despite a wide array of support measures devised by most of the nations particularly in the past three decades, SMEs are still faced with myriads of challenges such as lack of information, finance, technology, marketing, market information, managerial skills & skilled labourers, technical know-how, access to global value chain, poor ICT usage, networking, poor infrastructure, low production capacity, etc. The business environment across the world has become more challenging following the global financial crisis in late 2008 and SMEs are the worst hit. In addition, informality is a serious issue among large number of SMEs in developing countries that undermines their sustainable growth.
In order to have a significant impact on a country’s economy, SMEs need to grow bigger, meaning that they should increase employment, expand their variety of services, and enlarge their markets and earnings. Innovation is the most important driver of SMEs growth, because it could lead to new products and services or more efficient ways of delivering existing ones, through the introduction of new technology, know-how, skilled staff, and access to new markets.
New opportunities for SMEs to expand their business operations overseas have emerged, amidst challenges, with the introduction of liberalised trade and investment regime, following the establishment of World Trade Organisation. The business environment today, in the fast integrating world, is fraught with intense competition, both in domestic and international markets that has been putting immense pressure on SMEs. Recognizing the ongoing pressure on them, most countries are extending support in several forms for promoting SMEs and helping in building their competencies to operate in the new competitive environment. In this process, various agencies in UN system and other inter-governmental organisations have also been playing a critical role in facilitating international cooperation in developing and implementing appropriate SME policies and programmes.
ISSME, being the truly acknowledged global leading Organisation espousing the cause of SMEs around the world, therefore, has tremendous responsibility to ensure that SMEs, especially in developing economies, are not marginalized in the present competitive environment.
With an aim to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and make a just and peaceful world, ISSME is increasingly taking up such activities that ensures development of entrepreneurship, sustained growth of SMEs and foster the growth and development of youth & women entrepreneurs. In coming days, it will focus more on identifying the specific limitations and constraints of SMEs and their support institutions; supporting the Governments in developing SME-friendly policies and effective delivery mechanism; building the capacities of SMEs and their support institutions; networking and sharing experiences and best practices, undertaking empirical research, fostering international cooperation and strengthening its advocacy role.
We look forward to your support to our endeavours to promote and empower SMEs. After all, it’s you who will decide how effectively we can work together to achieve our shared goals.
A C Jose