(BFI) – Met within the framework of the preparations of the 5th edition of PMEXCHANGE 2023 which will be held from 11 to 15 March 2023 in Douala with the central theme: “the contribution of SMEs to the structural transformation of the economy through the sectoral approach”, Protais AYANGMA, President of the Ecam Movement, organizer of the event, presents in this exclusive interview conducted by Business & Finance International, the stakes and challenges of this major edition.
Now in its 5th edition, how can we present PMEXCHANGE today?
PMEXCHANGE is a large gathering of SMEs, SMIs, VSEs and Start-Ups in particular, and of all types of companies in general, which promotes entrepreneurship and investment, but which also aims to be a melting pot of solutions for economic growth. It is both a trade fair and a forum for SMEs that shows what our SMEs do (trade fair) and reflects on the problems of SMEs (forum).
“The contribution of SMEs to the structural transformation of the economy through the value chain approach”. How can we understand this fundamental theme and what are the objectives defined?
This theme is based on a global diagnosis of the socio-economic situation in Cameroon, which calls for solutions coming essentially from the private sector and in particular from SMEs. The results of this diagnosis can be summarised in the following points
(i) Growing structural deficit of the trade balance and the balance of payments;
(ii) State budget deficit which contrasts with the dynamism of the population;
(iii) Imbalance in the structure of production with a predominance of commercial activities, an embryonic industrial sector, a dynamic but inefficient informal sector and an inoperative financial system;
(iv) Historically conflicting coexistence between the traditional and modern economies;
(v) Growing demographic pressure leading to increasingly high security risks.
Based on this observation, the solutions proposed by E.CAM are implemented through the sectoral approach, which is also promoted by the Government, and which allows, thanks to efficient tools, to better structure companies in terms of organisation, creation of an industrial fabric and facilitation of their access to financing.
The objectives set within this framework relate to
- Controlling the flow of information both internally within the companies and at the level of the entire sector and its technical and financial partners;
- The control of physical flows of goods and people, thanks to the integration of companies within the targeted sectors;
- The control of financial flows thanks to the collection and efficient dissemination of information between companies and partner financial institutions.
PMEXCHANGE is therefore the ideal framework to prepare SMEs for this new situation and to enrol them in the platform designed for this purpose.
After four editions, we can say that PMEXCHANGE is already mature with a good experience? can we have some statistics?
Indeed, since 2012, and after 4 editions, we can say that PMEXCHANGE has acquired a certain maturity. As figures, we can mention among others
- 4216 visitors who bought their tickets to access the forum;
- Approximately 2500 students entered free of charge;
- About 3000 people with multi-entry badges,
- A site open to under 18s for free
- The revelation of 6 young entrepreneurs within the framework of the innovation grand prize
- 120 participating companies and institutions on average for each edition
- 136 stands and 03 open spaces deployed per edition
What are the activities that will take place during this 5th edition, of which you have announced many innovations?
We will have our traditional activities, in particular thematic conferences, company exhibitions, an advice area dedicated to advising companies led by experts from the private and public sector to disseminate useful information for their development and to strategically guide their choices as company directors…
In terms of innovations, what exactly can we expect?
For this edition, we are going to focus on digitalization. Indeed, PMEXCHANGE 2023 will take place both face-to-face and remotely in order to allow the actors of the diaspora to follow the activities of the Forum. Female entrepreneurship is also at the forefront with the Cameroon Women Business Champions programme which will reward local and diaspora women entrepreneurs. We have also planned an exhibition space organised in a pavilion that will highlight a strategic grouping by sector. We invite all companies to register on the https://transfagri.angara-finance.net/ platform to enable us to process their requests for non-financial and financial support and to put them in business contact with financial institutions, technical partners and other companies in the same sector. We also intend to invite at least one Regional Council.
Is it safe to say that by 15 March 2023 you will have achieved your objectives? What are the difficulties and challenges?
There are certainly difficulties which are linked in particular to the imbalance caused on an international scale by the two major events which are, on the one hand, the war between Russia and Ukraine and, on the other hand, the global health crisis of the Coronavirus in 2020. This leads us to note that there is currently an increase in the prices of everyday household consumption products, which weakens our economy to a certain extent, but it must be said that we have had a revival of activity which amounts to 3.6% of growth points in 2021, against only 0.3 in 2020. In this context, we aim to take up the challenge of a more effective dialogue between the stakeholders involved in supporting the growth of companies and the latter; the challenge being to transform our economy in order to create more wealth by strengthening the financial structure of companies, by developing qualified jobs for young people and also for women, thus enabling them to escape from precariousness.
PMEXCHANGE has also experienced an interruption of about 5 years due to Covid 19 and its impact on the SME economy (moreover its effects have not completely disappeared and are reinforced by inflation). The major organisational challenge is therefore to regain the confidence of the participants. However, we can count on our experience in this area and, above all, on the support we want to provide to companies so that their growth is effective despite the stressful global economic environment.