Vice-President Vincent Meriton’s address on international MSME day |26 June 2020
Seychellois entrepreneurs to gain new knowledge
Seychellois entrepreneurs are expected to gain new knowledge through the different programmes the government is putting in place with the help of foreign organisations.
Vice-President Vincent Meriton said this yesterday as he addressed the virtual high-level forum on the occasion of International Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day.
Also present were Angelique Antat, principal secretary for the department of industry and entrepreneurship development, and her staff.
VP Meriton’s message reads:
“It is an honour for us to participate in such a prestigious event to mark the International Day of the MSMEs, especially in a year, where MSMEs throughout the world have been greatly affected by COVID-19.
“At the onset, please allow me, on behalf of the Republic of Seychelles to extend our thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by the virus. We have been fortunate to connect with you all, despite the outbreak.
“I also understand that WebEx, the system we are using to connect to one another today was created by an entrepreneurial venture in 2007, which gained prominence during the pandemic as an online platform for webinars, virtual meetings and other fora. It is evident that the impact of technology has grown. It has grown exponentially over the past decade, and that it must be fully utilised by MSMEs to propel themselves to new heights.
“Seychelles, like any other country has not been spared by the virus. At the outset of the pandemic, our Public Health Authority put in place the necessary preventive measures to control its spread. This was made possible through a nationwide effort and drive by the government with the support, trust and cooperation from the private sector, civil society, religious organisations, the general population, as well as regional and international organisations.
“From a health perspective, we are recuperating. From an economic standpoint, however, like many other jurisdictions, we are still suffering, more so because as a small island nation, our economy is heavily reliant on tourism. Although the Seychelles International Airport will be re-opening in August, it is still too early to predict new travel trends. This is due to the fact that many countries remain on lockdown, and we are unsure when tourists will travel to our shores.
“Last year, we recorded a foreign currency surplus of 45 million dollars, the highest ever. This year, the expectations were even higher in that in the light of expected rise in number of visitors, the economy was set to grow by 3.9% compared to 2019. However, the outbreak and spread of the virus have left the economy in uncertainty. Data collected by our Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry indicate that MSMEs are most vulnerable to the after effects of COVID-19, given that most of them are highly dependent on the tourism sector. The most evident challenges are financial.
“To put you into context, please know that in Seychelles MSMEs are defined as enterprises with an annual turnover of no more than 25 million rupees equivalent to 1.3 million dollars. Based on the 2019 tax registration data, MSMEs in Seychelles account for 98% of small businesses, and they contribute 16% of GDP and 41% of total employment. The most popular licensable activities are trading, construction, hiring services, accommodation, catering and entertainment.
“The pandemic has undeniably affected every business activity, and will continue to do so for some time. The uncertainty for those who are self-employed has prompted government to introduce measures to mitigate these negative impacts – from a job retention allowance to a relief loan scheme to tax rebate Seychelles has adopted internationally recognised relief schemes.
“The fact that many businesses may have to downsize or even close down is distressing. It is expected that as many as 4,000 employees may lose their jobs by the end of the year, 20 of them being from the micro and small enterprises. The government has therefore introduced the Seychelles Employee Transition Scheme (Sets) to bring together people made redundant, as well as self-employed and business persons, whose companies have shut down with a view to retraining, rescaling them, or giving them an opportunity for temporary job placements.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the incremental implementation of measures to restore our economy remains necessary. We are slowly opening our borders to the outside world, bearing in mind that the virus has not gone away, and that we must adopt a COVID-19 ready attitude in the new normal.
“Seychelles is systematically reshaping its entrepreneurial landscape against this background, but with ambitious and realistic approaches. Entrepreneurship in Seychelles embraces the spirit of the recently approved national development strategy, paying particular attention to people at the centre of development, innovative economy, and economic transformation, while addressing the SDGs.
“To that end, in early 2019, the department of industry and entrepreneurship development requested UNCTAD to assist in establishing the Seychelles Entrepreneurship Policy Framework. The call was promptly and positively responded to and kicked off with a survey with key representatives from the public, private, academia and non-governmental sectors to provide further in- depth consultation. Representatives of government and other stakeholders were invited to attend a consultative workshop to prepare for the investment of the policy review in Seychelles and remove obstacles to investment and fostering entrepreneurship development. UNCTAD is now called upon to bring forward selected policy options that will enable government and its partners to begin the strategy formulation process.
“Additionally, with the support of UNCTAD again, Seychelles has secured EMPRTEC, and together with Sets, once the necessary funding will have been acquired, can bring many opportunities for both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.
“These efforts will inculcate an entrepreneurial spirit within our people, particularly the youth.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take the opportunity to express our gratitude to UNCTAD for providing Seychelles with their time, skills and knowledge to help us identify the opportunities that exist for entrepreneurs, the challenges that entrepreneurs face, help devise a framework for entrepreneurship policy for our future generation. Your patience and determination during this time will help fishers overcome future calamities.
“I hope that your discussions will be fruitful, and that it will give us all an opportunity to build back better through promoting inclusion and solidarity.
“I thank you for your attention.”
Office of the Vice-President