The impact of Botswana international trade fair on informal small scale clothing producers.
Selwe, Milane Kgalanyana.
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Micro and small businesses have become a contributor to both reduction of unemployment and to national development. The informal small scale clothing producers in Botswana have been supported by government through policies directed towards poverty alleviation and employment creation. Despite the government's efforts of availing financial assistance, technical expertise, promotional and marketing support, the informal small scale clothing producers do not seem to be utilising these for full benefit. Participation of the informal small scale clothing producers at Botswana International Trade Fair was expected to provide them with avenues for long term benefits through marketing their products and learning. The purpose of this study was to establish the impact of Botswana International Trade Fair on the informal small scale clothing producers. The informal small scale clothing producers have had assistance and access to promoting their products for a considerable time, with not much change in the market share and quantities of production. The challenges facing these informal small scale clothing producers has been to utilise BITF for competing with local and regional producers in providing quality products; to increase production for meeting the demands of the market; to increase profits, and expand businesses to reduce unemployment. Purposive sampling was used to select participating informal small scale clothing producers and council Home Economists while the· independent small scale exhibitors were conveniently sampled during the 2006 trade fair. Seventeen informal small scale clothing producers from the eastern part of Botswana were interviewed to establish impacts from participating at the trade fair. One producer who h-ad won most prizes at the trade fair was interviewed for a different perspective in production strategies employed. Fifteen council Home Economists, acting as liaison and change agents for the informal small scale clothing pmducers, also participated in the survey and focus group discussions. Two case studies were developed fmm in-depth interviews with independent small scale exhibitors to ascertain impact brought about by BITF on these producers. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches were used in collecting data. The results were analysed in terms of frequencies and chi-square relationships. Great similarities were found to exist between the three samples. The results revealed that there was adequate knowledge about BITF on the informal small scale clothing producers, as weil as with council Home Economists and the independent small scale exhibitors. The three groups understood the objectives of BITF to be mostly educational and followed by promotion. All the groups reported noticeable impact to be growth in the number of customers, increase in production, increase in assets, improvement in quality of products and addition of newly developed products. Perceptions of the three groups on the benefits from BITF matched what they experienced as result of participation at the trade fair. The producers on the other hand experienced a decline in the number of employees while the independent small scale exhibitors had an increase. For utmost benefit of BITF, the producers have to. strengthen their marketing strategies, during and outside the trade fair. There is need for the producers to take initiatives to secure their own stalls for participation during the trade fair as individuals or jointly with other producers. Producers could benefit more from using funding from government for promotion of products. Home Economists should support self representation by the producers so that they directly learn from participation and eventually wean off continued support from government. For monitoring and planning purposes, a national data base for micro and informal small scale clothing producers should be kept by the Department of Social Services. Benchmarking on involving micro and small scale businesses in training is essential, and establishment of local markets for continued contact with customers could expand producers' knowledge in production.
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