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Small Medium Enterprises

This is one of the sub-themes of the "Accelerating the Equitable Development of the South"programme.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are recognized globally as potential engines of growth. As important providers of employment opportunities, they have the capacity to make an enormous contribution to poverty eradication and equitable development efforts. But to expand in today's knowledge-based business environment, SMEs need to utilise information technology.

For SMEs, e-commerce is becoming an important avenue for expanding market reach and competing with larger companies worldwide. Many SMEs from the North are already reaping its benefits; if their counterparts in the South are not quick to follow, they will be rapidly marginalized. If NAM's SMEs are to participate fully in a competitive and globalised market, modalities to enhance the uptake and utilization of e-commerce must be developed.

In recognition of this, NAM CSSTC set out to establish the benchmarks of issues and current practices needed to develop such modalities. In October 2001, more than 100 participants from 19 NAM member countries gathered in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, to discuss issues and strategies for implementing e-commerce programmes; e-commerce awareness; SMEs' access to infrastructure; strategic alliances and a common legal framework for e-commerce.

The workshop concluded that the e-readiness of SMEs varies considerably among the NAM member countries. SMEs in countries that have low per capita income are constrained by limited skills and knowledge-managerial, administrative and technical-and limited market opportunities, lack of access to credit and low awareness of the potential of e-commerce. In many cases, they also face huge infrastructural obstacles, such as a lack of electricity or telephone connections in rural areas. Ways of assisting SMEs in these countries to access what they need were discussed.

SMEs in NAM member countries with higher per capita income are in a much better position to take advantage of e-commerce. Their principal constraint is the incompatibility of national e-commerce laws among the NAM members. One solution suggested was to use the e-commerce section of the United Nations Commission for International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) to harmonize the relevant laws of the NAM member countries.

The workshop identified specific actions that could betaken by NAM governments and the private sector to enhance e-readiness. NAM CSSTC itself has resolved to

  1. identify expertise on international trade laws in NAM member countries;
  2. investigate the feasibility of harmonizing national e-commerce laws in NAM member countries; and
  3. hold a meeting of experts to recommend policies and programmes to support the development of NAM's SMEs within NAM member countries.


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