The successful launch of the technical training centre project for training of artisans at the Suame Magazine in Kumasi, by the Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organisation (SMIDO), is yet another feather in the cap of artisans in the only surviving industrial village in the Garden City of Kumasi.
Indeed artisans at Suame Magazine under the banner of SMIDO, have indicated that with a sense of purpose, a can-do-spirit and tolerance of divergent views and unity in diversity, greater things could be achieved be it as individuals, group, society or a nation as a whole.
After initial difficulties, bickering, suspicion and politicisation, SMIDO is making headway and currently attracting support from international partners, government and other stakeholders, who have the development of the Magazine and employment of the youth at heart.
The initiative of SMIDO to transform the fortunes of the Magazine into modern industrial hub through the introduction and the use of ICT, culminating in the establishment of the Suame Magazine Automatics Institute (SMATI) Project with the support from DANIDA, USAID-DFID and the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC), is reviving the largest informal sector in the country.
Through a series of advocacy and training initiated by the Leadership of SMIDO, Suame Magazine is now turning itself to cope with the challenge of sophisticated and modern electronic vehicles which are now coming into the country.
This achievement is a great challenge to other cluster trade organizations and small-scale and medium-scale enterprises associations in the country to take their destinies into their own hands and initiate programmes that could help to them to overcome some of the challenges facing them.
For instance, small-scale carpenters at Anloga in Kumasi and Ahwiaa in the Kwabre District and others clustered in other big towns, could come together and initiate projects to seek the assistance of Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG) and wood product training school at Fumesua to identify and find solutions to some of the challenges facing them in the areas of reducing waste in their work, find alternative source of raw materials and design of new products.
Research has indicated that there are a lot of tree species which could be used to produce wood products in the country but still, carpenters depend on the already known ones which are fast depleting and therefore, very expensive, for their work.
In the same way, local shoe producers can come together under one umbrella to seek technical direction and assistance to ensure that their products matched up to those imported into the country, especially from China and other Asian countries, instead of always sitting down and complaining about unfair competition from importers.
Nobody should lose sight of the fact that the importers of these products which are at times cheaper are also Ghanaians, who have the right to work and earn a living.
It has been observed from advocacy research activities that many of the problems confronting SMEs are more of attitudinal change than policy limitations.
Many small-scale entrepreneurs fear change and are unwilling to open up and team up with others to initiate reforms and take steps to change their operations.
Leadership in the SMEs associations, are also a serious challenge. Sometimes, some of them find it difficult to brief members on the initiatives taken while others always want to get whatever they want first before any member could get. This at times breeds suspicion and weakens the strength of the associations.
The SMIDO initiative is the best examples which could be replicated in many SME associations and other trade organizations to achieve better results.
Even though policy change in areas that hamper the growth and expansion of SMEs are very necessary, lack of attitudinal change could deprive entrepreneurs the benefit of change.
It is time SMEs took their destinies into their own hands and worked towards achieving better results through, a can-do-spirit, unity in diversity and preparedness to embrace change.
After all, SMIDO faced a number of challenges at the beginning and is, even continuing to face challenges but with a sense of unity of purpose, people are beginning to smell success and with support from government and all stakeholders, Suame Magazine could easily play meaningful role in solving the country's youth unemployment problem.
A GNA feature By Kwabia Owusu-Mensah