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ACCELERATING THE EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SOUTH †
Small Medium Enterprises
Small Medium Enterprises

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

For SMEs, e-commerce is becoming an important avenue for market expansion and competitive advantage. Many SMEs from the North are already reaping their own benefits; if their counterparts in the Southfolloware not following through, they will be rapidly marginalized. Therefore, NAM's SME programme is intended for SMEs in South-South region to participate fully in a competitive and globalised market, as modality to enhance the uptake and utilization of e-commerce

In light of this, NAM CSSTC established 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 common legal frameworks 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-managements, both administrative and technical-and limited market opportunities, lacks of accesses to credit and low awareness of tpotential of e-commerce. In many cases, they also face huge infrastructural obstacles, such as lack of electricity or telephone connection in rural areas. Measures to assist SMEs in these countries were discussed.

SMEs in NAM member countries with higher per capita income are in a much better position benefit from 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 be taken by NAM governments and private sectors 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
    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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