New enterprise unit aims to cut through red tape for businesses


 The meeting between Ms Berlouis and SCCI board members

The principal secretary of the new department, Marise Berlouis, said that it was her mandate to oversee the creation of the new authority by September 1, which would have wide-ranging regulatory powers, including environmental, health and transport.

Industry now falls under the new department, a sector that Ms Berlouis acknowledged as a vital part of the economy.
She described the industrial estate at Providence as a “mess”, saying it had been allowed to deteriorate from an industrial estate into a second town.

Major upheavals at several other government agencies may also be on the cards as the DEDBI tries to make the business environment for entrepreneurs in Seychelles more welcoming and less bureaucratic. Ms Berlouis was speaking during a meeting with representatives from the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) yesterday.

The principal secretary confirmed that the department was due to receive a million US dollar grant in January next year from the African Development Bank to ease business training and technical help for small and medium-sized enterprises in Seychelles, and said she was seeking to create a partnership with the SCCI for the training and mentorship of entrepreneurs.

Ms Berlouis has previously held executive roles at the Seychelles Licensing Authority (SLA), Small Enterprise Promotion Agency (Senpa), as well as being special advisor in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Industry, which has now been re-named the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).

The chairman of the SCCI, Marco Francis, welcomed the department’s engagement with the private sector and congratulated Ms Berlouis on her appointment to the role.

He said the SCCI would support the department’s efforts to eliminate bureaucracy and other obstacles encountered by entrepreneurs and offered the chamber’s support for mentorship and training initiatives.

During a lively discussion between Ms Berlouis and the SCCI board, she revealed that sweeping changes to the mandate of Senpa were likely to be imminent, including the widening of its umbrella to include small and medium-sized enterprises of all types of industries.

Senpa was created in 2004, after the insolvency of the Seychelles Industrial Corporation (Sidec) in the same year, with the aim to promote and support small and medium-sized handicraft enterprises and cottage industries.

Ms Berlouis expressed scathing criticism at the way Senpa was currently being operated, citing major organisational weaknesses.

“Senpa needs looking at very urgently,” said Ms Berlouis. “The department there is not a very good role model of doing business in itself, so it’s not very capable of showing other people how to do business.”

“They need capacity building. They need a proper audit of what they have there,” she said. “[Their claims that they have] ten thousand cottage industries is not true, so we need to go out there and find out exactly what is going on in that area.”

“The Small Business Financial Agency (SBFA) needs to also have a proper database, which we will now help them to do, of who owes them money, where the money is, and so on. They don’t have that; they have a pile of files sitting in the corner, so they need to get themselves organised as well.”

SCCI vice-chairman Dolor Ernesta said he believed the focus of entrepreneurial training should be placed on school-leavers and drop-outs to ensure they did not slip through the cracks and end up on the fringes of society.

“In terms of mentoring, I believe we are picking the wrong people to mentor young entrepreneurs,” said Mr Ernesta. “We need people who have practical experience of entrepreneurship, so that the young entrepreneurs can pick the brains of their mentors.”