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Sierra Leone Business:: Journalists urged to champion SME challenges

The Minister of Communication of The Gambia, Ebrima Sillah, has challenged journalists to champion the issues facing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by bringing it out in their reportage. Speaking at the close of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Media Training for Anglophone West Africa on Economic and Business Reporting on Friday 22nd February, 2019 in The Gambia, the Minister said that it is unfortunate that despite the fact that “we are witnessing the growth in the SMEs we are not seeing a corresponding interest in terms of reports of their activities,” he said. Across West Africa, he said, the SMEs, are the biggest taxpayers. “We have also not seen the corresponding interest from the journalists to look at the taxes they are paying, how accountable and transparent these taxes are spent to advance the course of the SMEs. These areas should also be looked at,” he added. Minister Sillah also referenced some market women and women’s organisations, who have formed interest blocks, but, when they go to the markets they struggle to have public toilets. “It is your role to ensure that these SMEs sell their goods and are taken care of. Ensure the basic issues are reflected in your reports,” he urged the participants.  He thanked the IMF for providing the opportunity to the 23 journalists to be trained by the Thompson Reuters Foundation. “It has come when ECOWAS is making every effort to integrate our economies and also adopt a single currency in the West Africa region. We have over 400 million people and we are witnessing a growing consumer base and we are also seeing a boom in the SMEs,” he said. Unfortunately, the SMEs still lack the necessary information to adapt to the growing trend of consumer behaviour in terms of cutting-edge technologies. They can use these technologies to reach out to customers. The journalists and the media houses, he said, have a great role to help the consumers understand and similarly so help businesses understand the new dynamics. “Therefore in helping these journalists and exposing them to some of these new techniques and some of these fundamentals it will go a long way in shaping their understanding of the realities, especially when it comes to consumer behaviour and market trends,” he said. He mentioned that there is also this fundamental shift in West Africa from conflict to adopting democracy and good governance and where there is good governance and democracy – businesses flourish. “How they compete is also an issue… because we are dealing with some archaic laws, tax policies that need to be reported so that our governments and duty bearers need to understand to either change it or completely take it out of our books so that businesses can grow. The opportunities are huge so there is a great opportunity to help businesses, government and consumers with these new times that we are dealing with,” said Minister Sillah.  The advent of the Internet and especially its rapid growth in this area, the Minister said, “Even non-literate business people are exposed to it, so journalists must play the constant role of providing what the businesses are offering and how the consumers can react to it,” he said.  In West Africa the population is still young and they are interested in social media and other platforms and these things are changing our way of life. These changes cannot happen without constant training and capacity building. He said governments cannot do it alone and media houses don’t have the financial capacity to do this kind of training.  In some countries, this kind of reporting is a specialised activity. One needs to have the technical knowledge and capacity to report and to breakdown the difficult jargon to the people who don’t understand. Specifically, with writing around trade negotiations, the difficult issues of capital market reporting mainly dealing with analysing figures that is coming from institutions like DOW Jones and other capital markets. “You are the rare ones that have been exposed to this opportunity, which is coming up at the right time, with specific reference to the single currency and integrating it and the same time helping our journalists in breaking these issues into very small terms for people to understand and businesses to adapt. At the end the Minister presented certificates to participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, The Gambia and Sierra Leone.

ZJ/23/2/19

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Monday February 25, 2019.

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