The Small Enterprises And Handicraft Development Authority Economics Essay

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SEHDA is devoted to the expansion of small enterprises in Mauritius but they also seek to boost their business efficiency through research, training and other measures. By developing this culture of small enterprise, SEHDA aim to persuade other potential entrepreneurs to accomplish their desires.

The main objectives of SEHDA are:

Promote and sustain development of small enterprises;

boost their efficiency and competitiveness through investigation , training and other procedures;

promote clustering and links with other enterprises;

help the marketing and sale of products and services of small enterprises;

Business Counselling and provision of professional advice and support to both potential and existing entrepreneurs

3.2.2 National empowerment foundation (NEF)

The NEF was set up in July 2008, as an institutional framework to reinforce the role of the Empowerment Programme, and to help in Combating poverty and social exclusion, including through projects to social and economic development in impoverished areas. NEF has provided an overall coordinating framework for the Trust Fund for the social integration of Vulnerable Groups, the Eradication of Absolute Poverty (EAP) Programme, the Decentralised Cooperation Programme (DCP), the Empowerment Programme and the Corporate Social Responsibility Programme. It also aims at reducing the unemployment rate among women by providing technical and financial support to women redundant, unemployed and / or over the age of 40 who wish to join the workforce or start their own business. At the end of June 2008, Rs 1 059 million have been spent for all the programmes which consist of facilities for unemployed women, Integrated Social Development, circular migration, technical assistance to Small and Medium Enterprises(SMEs).

In 2009, the NEF has laid emphasis mostly on training and placement for unemployed women and providing social housing facilities under the Integrated Social Development Programme to provide support to poor families.

Special programme for unemployed women was set up, for which an amount of Rs 10.5 m has been disbursed; some 407 women have got advantage from both financial and technical assistance for micro-enterprise projects.

In addition, apart from the different job fairs organised throughout the island to help job seekers, NEF is opened an 'Espace des Metiers' in June 2009 whereby a desk is permanently arranged to attend to all queries of the public as regards existing jobs on the market.

According to CSO reports the NEF has Broaden the circle of job opportunities to some 3000 additional job seekers through training and placement facilities as well as helping those whose jobs are affected by the global economic crisis in securing their jobs is the main focus of the National Empowerment Foundation (NEF) for the year 2009.A total of 11 792 persons both from Mauritius and Rodrigues have so far benefited from training facilities, placement and financial assistance under the different programmes initiated by the NEF since its setting up in July 2006 to 2009.

Additionally At end 2008, around Rs 1.1 billion have been disbursed for all the programmes which include facilities for unemployed women, Integrated Social Development, circular migration, technical assistance to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). As regards the training and placement programme, some 6 230 persons have already secured a job in different fields namely, 5 105 persons in the ICT/BPO, 405 in hotels, 98 in textiles, 65 in construction and 333 in other services.

At end 2008, more than 500 women had benefited from placement facilities as well as financial assistance to start a small group business. Moreover, 200 vulnerable families will also benefit from the Integrated Social Development programme with the setting up of housing units in a model village at La Valette in Bambous at a total cost of Rs 205 million and another such project will soon take shape at Cité Lumiere in Grand Baie.

3.2.3 National Women Entrepreneur Council

The National Women Entrepreneur Council (NWEC) is a parastatal body which operates under the support of the Ministry. Its aim is to promote women entrepreneurs in both Mauritius and Rodrigues.

The main objectives of the council are:

To create and preserve effective communication between the Council and Women Entrepreneurs Organisations.

To guarantee coordination of activities of women entrepreneurs associations.

To set up training programmes, designed at improving the skills and management skills of women entrepreneurs.

To expand working relations and affiliation with other bodies whether in Mauritius or abroad, having same objectives.

In order to promote economic independence of women and encourage the development and growth of women entrepreneurs, the services offered by the Council are: 

information, counselling, international linkage development, Micro-project, training and

marketing, organizing exhibitions and fairs.

3.2.4 SMEs in Mauritius

SMEs provide new micro enterprise financing schemes to women such as Booster loan from the Development Bank of Mauritius. Television programmes on opportunities for women are usually presented to promote entrepreneurship. They give access to counselling of mentors like Exchange of information and advice with experienced mentors, Business planning and project follow-up assistance and also Participation in trade fairs.

Loan scheme are given for acquisition and modernization of equipments by SMEs. For example leasing facilities for acquisition and modernisation of equipments.

SMEs are also responsible for Mix of work and training scheme. It is an opportunity for an unemployed to gain an in-company placement coupled with a work-related formal training so as to make them employable.

Aline Wong reported in the 57th Congress in Cameroon in 2009 that there are constraints faced by women entrepreneur and different types of actions were undertaken. Women were having difficulties in getting access to credit therefore the ownership of immovable property was no longer a condition. The problem of access to land was solved by giving support for land clearing and soft loans for start-ups expenditures and also access to land. Moreover entrepreneur were having support for project preparation and assessment of feasibility as well as funding of capacity building.

However, the authors, S.Rojid, S.Ramessur, B. Seetanah (2009) have come to a conclusion that that In Mauritius, very few large firms are owned and controlled by women. There has been a rise in female employment in small establishments but female entrepreneurs have reduced drastically. Together with financial and marketing difficulties they also have to cope with the responsibilities of the household and family, including childcare, care of the elderly, sick and disabled persons, and other community obligations. It is a fact that, in Mauritius, micro and small businesses are part of a survival strategy, in which entrepreneurs can be classified as "working poor" who want to leave their business as soon as other prospect emerge. This is mainly the case with women entrepreneurs.

3.3 EPZ's Provide Economic Empowerment for Women in Mauritius

As suggested by Siera Vercillo (2010), EPZs has enhanced the social status and financial position of women in Mauritius. A key factor that allows women to get employed is due to the fact that EPZs in Mauritius make up the entire island, and thus women access to employment much easier, as they are not required to leave their families. Moreover, given that Mauritius is a patriarchal society, men are less conservative and permit their wives to undertake a job. This economic empowerment of women is vital for achieving independence and able to take decisions within their households, and promoting their development.

She also added that the opportunity to receive a salary has enabled Mauritian women to become economically independent. Women preferred to work in factories even if they earned less money than working in agricultural fields and they enjoyed socializing themselves than staying at home to do household tasks. It can also be seen as giving women a prospect to participate and grow in the modern sector. These women are in a better position to educate their children and be more open minded thus making it easier for the next generation to become more educated. Initially EPZs were succeeded in removing women out of poverty, empowering them to make them become independent.

However Siera Vercillo highlighted that most women employees in the EPZ sector hold only very essential skills and their competences need to be developed or else they may find themselves redundant. As the EPZ firms started having diminishing returns, mainly women were being fired (who are incapable to find another employment), it demonstrates the effect of the 'feminization of poverty' within Mauritius. EPZ women worker's salary contributed a lot in households' budget and the loss of employment was a major issue concerning empowerment. Thus they found themselves in a very vulnerable position.

3.4 Free education in Mauritius

S.Ramdoo (2005) research proved that education can allow Mauritian women realize, discover, and develop upon their unknown potential(s). Education helps women to be in a better position thus allowing them to be more conscious and rational when making choices for personal development.

Moreover, advances in technology will serve as a powerful tool to be used by women seeking to advance their education (and status). Greater skills and knowledge specialization will be needed by women to participate effectively in the rapidly emerging global information economy. Thus, women's educational opportunities must, by necessity, be reflective of and incorporate their occupational situation.

The development of education national report of Mauritius(2008) highlighted that Free access to secondary education in 1977 increase considerably the enrolment at secondary level for girls and remarkable development was noticed in girl life thereby lessening the gender gap and promoting equality. With Free secondary level education to girls, discrimination against on economic grounds to access education was no longer a problem. Secondary graduates among girls has increase thus concluding that many girls have pursued their studies till tertiary level, closing the gap in gender enrolment at the post secondary level. Girls were encouraged to work and build a better future thus allowing the next generation of to be educated.

A forum on changing role of women in January 2011 argued that education played a key role in improving up the status of the Mauritian women. .  Since free education was introduced, many more women and girls began to have access to education.  Today, the amount of boys and girls reaching tertiary education has increased.  Moreover, legislation has been passed to make education obligatory until the age of sixteen.  Girls who are graduated are thus better positioned to occupy posts of responsibility. Nowadays women work in different sectors which were considered as male-oriented like, police force, driving vehicles and management posts.

3.5 Poverty Situation in Mauritius

In Mauritius, less than 1% of the population fall below the $1 a day poverty line. Mauritius is an outlier in the Sub Saharan African countries and by the $2 a day poverty line, about 1.5% of the population lives in acute poverty. Mauritius' rapid economic development has reduced the number of people living below the relative poverty line from 28.4% in 1981 to 10.6% in 1992 and around 8% in 2008.

From the household budget survey table below, the proportion of poor households living below the relative poverty line has climbed up from 7.7% in 2001/02 to 8% in 2006/07. By the same measure, the percentage of poor persons below the relative poverty line increased from 7.8% in 2001/02 to 8.7% in 2006/07. This can be shown by Table 1 below:

Table 1: Selected summary indicators on poverty, 1996/97, 2001/02 and 2006/07

Relative poverty




Poverty line:- Half median monthly income2 per adult equivalent (Rs)




Estimated number of poor households




Proportion of poor households (%)




Estimated number of poor persons




Proportion of poor persons (%)




Source: Household Budget Survey 2006/2007, CSO, Mauritius

The Mauritian government has implemented the 'Eradication of Absolute Poverty' programme. This programme aim to give greater protection to the vulnerable groups and empower people to fight against unemployment. The 'Eradication of Absolute Poverty' programme offers support to 5,000 children not attending pre-school and marginalized populations of around 7,000 families living in absolute poverty. Medical screening in pre-primary schools in special areas, spectacles, hearing aids and other facilities are given free to needy children.

A number of poverty schemes namely the IFAD Rural Diversification Programme, the Trust Fund for the Social Integration of Vulnerable Groups, 'A Nou Diboute Ensam' and EU-funded Micro Project Programme for Poverty Alleviation and among others were established. All the existing poverty alleviation programmes allows the poor to be empowered with the required skills to move out of the poverty trap. The main aims of these schemes were the financing of community development programmes, micro credit schemes, social infrastructural development, and loans to needy students.