The OIC Network of Small and Medium Enterprises Information System (ONSA)
Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) development has been given due consideration in the draft of OIC Ten Year Programme of Action (OIC-TYPOA) 2015-2025 (DRAFT/Rev-1, Expert Group Meeting-2015, 23 April 2015) and the aforementioned draft has put emphasis on the effective implementation of the Strategic Plan for the Promotion and Development of SMEs Sector in OIC Member States prepared by the OIC Task force on SMEs. In this respect, “The Sixth and Final OIC Task Force Meeting on SMEs” held in Bangkok-Thailand on August 15-17, 2008, gave the mandate to the Islamic Chamber Research and Information Center (ICRIC), which is an affiliated organ to Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (ICCIA), to create an “OIC Network of SME Agencies (ONSA)”. It is worth mentioning that, the report of the Final OIC Task Force Meeting on SMEs was taken note by the Thirty-Sixth Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (OIC/36-CFM/ECO/RES/FINAL).
ICRIC has taken some measures and has devoted some financial resources in recent years to establish ONSA; in this respect, ICRIC had designed and set up a website about Islamic countries’ SMEs.
- To develop a networking systems among Islamic Countries’ SMEs;
- To develop data and statistical information as a basis for establishing measures to address the issues of SME financing and,
- To Launch training for SMEs;
Taken into account the fact that, SMEs are important engines of growth, jobs and social cohesion in different countries, it would be prudential that SMEs development be considered as one of the important areas of cooperation among Islamic Countries. SMEs are now faced with an increasingly firm competition caused by globalization and trade liberalization. In the case of CAFTA (China ASEAN Free Trade Area), for example, the invasion of low price products made in China has threatened the prospect of SMEs in ASEAN countries. For SMEs in Muslim countries, the threat needs to be faced by implementing Islamic principles and values in operating the business.
It has been generally recognized that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) play important roles in supporting national economic development. Such important roles of SMEs can be observed in a number of aspects including labor absorption, income generation and distribution, poverty alleviation, training ground for the development and upgrading entrepreneurship skills, and important vehicles for promoting forward and backward linkages in geographically and economically diverse sectors of the economy in many countries (Moha Asri, 1999). Shortly, according to Castel-Branco (2003), hardly any arguments were put forward against SMEs’ roles in economic development of a country; even if industrial policies do not favor them and economic programs often continue to result in large capital investment.
Therefore, SMEs seem to be an “accepted panacea” for a country facing economic challenges e.g. poverty and unemployment in its development policies especially for those less developed countries.
Islamic social entrepreneurship is proposed as a model in empowering SMEs to operate in a Muslim society. Basically, this model utilizes a stock of Islamic social capital and cooperation among Muslim entrepreneurs that are very commonly found in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). The primary purpose of SMEs to operate within Islamic social entrepreneurship is producing jobs and value in the communities, not to shareholders’ profitability. In addition, this should be accompanied by professionalism, accountability, and efficiency based on new technology; continuing education, and the willingness of people or related agents to work together. Consequently, every Muslim entrepreneur and related supporting agent must change their old vision into the new one that they should work more productively and share their contribution not only to their own interest but also to the betterment of the ummah.
In order to contribute to the securing of business resources needed to reinforce the business infrastructure of SMEs, such as improvement of business methods and development of technologies, the countries shall take appropriate measures:
• Support by three types of SME Support Centers: Regional SME Support Centers, Prefectural SME Support Centers, and SME / Venture Business Support Centers
• SME / Venture Business Support Centers
These Centers provide, to SMEs and venture companies considering the public offering of stock, financial and technical assistance and high-level consulting services by experienced experts in management, finance, and legal matters. The Center also supports the Prefectural SME Support Center and the Regional SME Support Center as the core of the SME support system in regional blocks.
• Prefectural SME Support Centers
These Centers, the core of the system of prefectural governments for support of SMEs under “the Small and Medium Enterprise Support Law”, provide counseling, implement projects for evaluating business feasibility, dispatch experts, and provide information to secure business resources such as human resources, technology, and information in response to the various needs of those who plan to start up businesses and SMEs.
• Regional SME Support Centers
This Center is established in some countries to provide local consultation services and various types of information as a supporting center that is familiar and easy to use for those who plan to start up a business and to help small enterprises with issues such as business innovation. This system can be composed of some stronger countries as Focal Points to help less developed countries in the OIC. The work plan of such centers is inclusive of human resource training, enjoying the successful experiences in business start ups, empowering human resources with new technologies and softwares that can avail them, providing statistic and analysis information, making the information required for export and import accessible and etc. ICRIC has planned to make a network of powerful countries who are eager to cooperate in this program and gather the needed information for SMEs. It has planned a number of international seminars to apply the experiences of successful cases and disseminate the results of researches and seminars in the SMEs publication.