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COOPERATIVES in Chongwe have called on the government to strengthen empowerment mechanisms of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

According to the cooperatives, some well-intended programmes have not reached the viable business entities.

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Chongwe Cooperatives Union (CCU) chairperson, Fred Mwendo, said an interview yesterday that most empowerment programmes had not reached the viable businesses because the criteria for eligibility had not been well-defined.

He observed that government empowerment had more mostly gone to cooperatives that were formed just to access empowerment.

Mr Mwendo said that this trend had not yielded any gains as some people took advantage of the call to access empowerment by forming cooperatives.

He argued that most of the cooperatives and businesses that accessed government empowerment had nothing to show for what they received.

“We had cooperatives that were formed in one day and accessed empowerment the following day. This must not be the case because we have viable and long-existing cooperatives that did not access the funds despite being credible and viable,” he said.

Mr. Mwendo said that those seeking empowerment programmes must have the requisite skills that would result in real growth.

He said that this could only be achieved through technical support from already existing businesses and called for the strengthening of linkages between the old and new cooperatives to avoid the negative effects that come with financing inexperienced businesses.

He also appealed to the government to give new cooperatives and businesses a timeframe before they could qualify for empowerment.

Mr Mwendo said that empowering cooperatives or businesses that were just formed to access assistance had not resulted in real growth.

He was however happy that the government has now created the ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises.

He said that this was a welcome move and it is hoped that it would spur growth in the business sector.

Mr Mwendo said that mindset change must be on top of the list for the ministry to ensure that cooperatives become the driving force of economic development.

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