A leading Tanzanian industrialist on Monday challenged small and medium businesses in the country to come up with workable strategic and results-oriented plans that would help them develop and utilise a rich and highly promising internal market potential.
He said while the SMEs had for long raised alarm over what was generally perceived as problems with landing a ready and reliable domestic market for locally produced goods, the fact of the matter was that the country boasted a lucrative market potential eagerly awaiting development and exploitation.
Those familiar with the state of Tanzania’s agricultural and industrial sectors will readily concur with the industrialist, as there is no denying that processing perishable crops to ensure they do not needlessly go to waste does not call for sophisticated technology or massive improvements to infrastructure such as roads and railways.
This, though, is not to suggest that turning things around to the extent of making a substantial chunk of whatever is produced or made by SMEs in the country of reasonably good quality and therefore able to attract serious markets is that easy or simple.
It is also true that, lucrative as external markets may be, for all but very few of our small and medium businesses these are scarce indeed.
In the circumstances, and as recommended by the industrialist referred to, it would make much economic sense for these businesses to seek to sell more in the domestic market than continue to long for a largely elusive foreign market characterised by cut-throat competition.
But then that is assuming at least two things – first that the domestic market itself is accommodative enough of local products and services and secondly that those products and services are of tolerably good quality.
This is of fundamental importance because, just as applies to all forms and kinds of business, one ought to aim beyond local or immediate needs, demands, expectations or surroundings – and quality will always attract customers.
It is also worth noting that while quality has great potential attract customers, businesses often discover that they have no option but to go hunting for markets if they are to survive the storms of globalisation.
Yes, globalisation has its advantages, and this is what the US business executives now visiting our country meant when they urged the Tanzania Trade Development Authority (Tantrade) further explore the benefits available under the US-endorsed African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
As will be recalled, this is a piece of legislation approved by the US Congress in May 2000 and is aimed at assisting the economies of sub-Saharan Africa and improving economic relations between the United States and the region.
But not only has the arrangement come under criticism from a number of quarters but also many countries that would profit from it have failed the assistance eligibility test, while some beneficiaries have reported limited successes.
With the situation being this unpredictable, even murky, we concur with the Tanzanian industrialist that the safety of our SMEs lies in the development of our own markets and ensuring that the goods and services on offer both make the grade and actually go hunting for reliable customers. Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton said it all: “Capital isn’t scarce; vision is.”